We talk about some simple steps to maintaining excellent mental health and getting good results. As the exam period once again comes around the corner, thousands of Singaporean students on once again frantically trying to finish their maths revisions before the exams. It is often a period of stress and anxiety, which can affect not only the students but also parents as well. In many cases, students are unable to eat, sleep, or function normally because of this fear and anxiety. In extreme situations, the pressure to perform well in the exams can even result in the development of mental problems and suicidal thoughts. As tutors, we get calls every year from students who are struggling to cope with the increased stress due to the mathematics paper (and other exams). Here are some simple but effective tips to relax and recollect yourself during the exams.
(1) Take Regular Breaks
It may sound counter-intuitive to some students to take a break when they hardly have any time left to finish revision. However, study breaks are critically important to allow your brain some time to rest and recuperate. Maths is sometimes a mentally challenging subject. After doing maths problems for a while, a person’s concentration starts to significantly decrease. You may not feel the fatigue directly, but it affects your problem-solving productivity and your memory. You may find yourself stuck at a simple algebra problem because of a ‘mental block’ caused by fatigue.
Many students react with incredulous expressions when we tell them to take time off to exercise. However, exercising is one of the best ways of relaxing yourself so that you can continue studying those trigonometric math functions. Exercise increases on mental alertness, boosts our energy, and actually has a positive impact on our mood. The good news is it does not take a lot of exercise to achieve these results, simply take a brisk walk for 20 minutes and you can go back to that integration math practice.
(3) Drink lots of water
Keeping hydrated as one of the more important but often overlooked factor. Drinking lots of water during the exam has two benefits, it actually helps you to concentrate better. And because drinking water helps your liver do its job a bit better (by removing toxins from your body) it also helps prevent you from getting sick during this critical period.
(4) Do not “burn midnight oil”
Many students study late into the night because they feel that they want to get as much done as possible. However, studying late at night affects your mental alertness the next day and results in an overall decrease in your productivity. You will find yourself making careless mistakes on simple math equations.
The lack of sleep can also increase your anxiety and stress levels. If you do feel that you’re able to study better at night, make sure that you have a full 8 hours of rest. In other words, make sure that you are able to wake up later the following morning so you will still feel refreshed and ready to continue your maths revision.
(5) Talk to someone
If you feel that you are unable to cope with the stress, or feel overwhelmed by everything that’s happening around you, speak with somebody you trust. It could be your parents, a good friend, or even your tuition teacher. Having a good talk with someone that can provide a listening ear goes a long way in alleviating your stressful thoughts.
Being a mathematics tuition centre, we often see first-hand how exam stress can grip a student, and see many students struggling to cope during the exam period. These students are driven by a keen fear of failure, many times because they do not want to disappoint their parents. Other times, students give themselves unrealistic expectations because they see academic achievements as the only route to success in life.
Getting a distinction for maths (or any subject) is great but remember that there’s more to life beyond simply getting good exam results. Even if you do badly in a particular exam it is not the end of the world. That will be many other opportunities to express yourself and succeed later on in life. In short, go in there, do your best, and keep your focus on your long-term goals!