Exams and GCSEs are what’s happening on this side of the pond and lots of end of the year tests are in progress on the other — some decide whether one passes to the next grade or not! No wonder, so many of you are feeling stressed right about now. That’s intense, no matter how you look at it.
Something’s gotta give, right? I know the feeling, even though it’s been a while since I had to sit an exam for one reason or another, but not so long that I’ve forgotten the pressure. Reading, studying, and cramming incessantly often left me too exhausted to sleep. You too. The hours meant for sleeping, especially the night before, was often spent tossing and turning fitfully.
I can still just about remember the feeling of sweet relief that washed over me when the big day had come and gone. Even if I immediately began to worry about my scores, there was something liberating about having the exam behind me.
Upon reflection, however, I now know taking exams doesn’t have to be that intense. Of course, preparation is key and that is where planning comes in but planning, as helpful and necessary as it is, might not be enough to remove some of the stressors.
There are plenty of wonderful ways to de-stress, such as yoga, meditation and so on, but some techniques take time and money and often when in school, the two can be sparse. That’s why I tend to return to two failsafe ways of relaxing, both take very little time and don’t have to cost a penny.
First things first: learn how to breathe again. Yes, you read it right. Years ago, I tried a technique called transformational breathing and though it is not for everyone, for the two reasons I mention above and others, we could all learn from the basic premise, which amends the mind positively, helping the recipient to relearn to breathe deeply and slowly.
And you didn’t know you had forgotten, right. I didn’t either until suddenly I was asked to take deep breathes rather slowly. Only then did I realise that my breathing had become shallow and it was taking a toll on my overall existence.
And though I don’t practice transformational breathing anymore, I often re-train myself to breathe properly again, anywhere and anytime and it works, to slow the mind down, the body, too and offers respite from whatever pressure is in the air. Works a jewel at night when stress is looming large over sleep, slows the mind right down, making way for sleep, something that we all need plenty of and certainly when facing exams.
Read more about breathing deeply and slowly and transformational breathing in my HuffPost blog Breathing Through The Holidays.
Now about slowing down, why not go for a walk as another simple way to de-stress. I know, I know, you thought running was my thing. It is! Some of my best ideas have come out of a long run and often when I go out for a walk, I find myself revved to run. But lately, I have learned to slow it down and come to appreciate walking for what it is, a very natural way of eradicating the mind of chatter and worry and relaxing the body, too.
First on a retreat where walking was mentioned as a way to stimulate writing, I struggled to keep it slow, but then when my trainer mentioned that walking was less stressful on the body, I put it to the test, trading in a run for a walk at least once per week.
For me, walking is not so much about pulling ideas out of the subconscious mind, the R-mode, but more so about abiding in that right mind, if you will, for as long as I can. And in that mental state, I find myself automatically relaxed.
So much for testing times! Why not relax your way through them?