Stress Less for Exam Success

Hey everyone! With final assignments and papers due, and with exams just around the corner, it is easy to begin experiencing “stress.” I know I am! Ongoing, chronic stress can lead us to feeling overwhelmed or moody, and it can even affect our physical state.

That being said, stress does not always have to mean a bad thing! Stress is defined as a mental state of “high alert” that is turned on to deal with the pressures of unexpected or high demanding events, such as heavy workloads and pressure from deadlines. Stress reaction is meant to turn on to deal with a stressful event and then turn it off when that stressor ends. The problem is that for a lot of us, we forget to turn our stress off, which results in always operating on “high alert”. When we operate with a consistent and chronic stress response, we can begin to see wear and tear of stress on our bodies, and those negative effects we hear about. Thus, how we perceive and manage our stress plays an important role!

Earlier in the year I wrote a blog entitled “stress as a positive.” Generally, moderate levels of stress facilitate performance, which can be summarized by this graph…


Expanding on that idea, the way we perceive stress can not only change our definition of stress, but can actually have beneficial responses to our well-being. Kelly McGonigan presents a very interesting research in her Ted Talks video entitled “How to make stress your friend” (I won’t go into depth on this video, because you should definitely consider watching it yourself). In short, she describes that stress is only harmful to your health when it is perceived to be so. The way we perceive stress affects our unconscious interpretation of the stressor. For instance, we can perceive stress as telling us: “I’m so stressed right now…I’m gonna fail my exam” or  “this is my body’s responding to this exam,  so I will be sure to do what I can to feel prepared!”

The way we perceive stress is directly related to our self-efficacy, or our belief in our abilities. Improving self-efficacy can be achieved through performance accomplishments, vicarious experiences (observing others), verbal persuasion, and by altering  physiological states such as moods or emotions. Two effective means to boost your confidence include (1) positive self-talk and (2) goal setting. Setting attainable and realistic goals can lead to feeling accomplished when the goal is reached!

If you are having trouble with stress or are worried about final exams, UBC does provide several opportunities for students to manage their stress effectively! On the UBC live well learn well website several events are affiliated with the “Stress Less for Exam Success” campaign running from April 7-10. Activities range from Stress Doctors roaming in IKB, to Free Hugs and High Fives Events. The Live Well Learn Well website also cites several strategies that are helpful in managing stress, which includes taking breaks, talking to others, meditation, and breathing procedures.

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Finally drop by the Wellness Centre (IKB room 183) during Stress Less to get a Stress Management Kit full of goodies like tea and post-it notes. Our Wellness Peers can also provide you with helpful stress management strategies. We will also have a Stress Ball Making Station where you can make and personalize your very own stress ball while kneading out some stress in the process!

During this exam season, study hard, take quality breaks and consider how you can use stress to your benefit!

Good luck!