Studying - Things to Keep in Mind
Updated: Jan 21, 2019
By Beatrice Moyo & Gabriela Völkel - Intern Educational Psychologists
Whether you are preparing for a big exam, or you have a child who needs a little extra support around test time, studying can be anxiety provoking and time consuming. It can sometimes seem a mammoth task to begin, and maintaining motivation and concentration can be challenging. Life still happens around you, regardless of whether you have to study or not, and many of us have difficulty with staying focused on the task at hand. Have a look at the following suggestions to help keep you, or your child, on track:
1. Create a study schedule and try to stick to it.
Do not leave studying until it is too late, as this can lead to feelings of panic. Being poorly prepared may increase your anxiety levels. The more prepared you feel, the more confident you will be. Develop a study schedule that works best for you, such as using diagrams, notes, visual presentations, discussions, acronyms, and using headings and structure. As you study, take regular, scheduled breaks. If you find yourself feeling restless, do not try to force yourself to sit still and study, get up and walk around for a few minutes.
2. Get enough sleep
Do not become overtired by forcing yourself to work late. Give your brain enough time to process all the information you have been studying. Know when you are tired, and try to get 8 hours of sleep a night. The brain will work best if it is rested. Avoid cramming late into the night before the exam - it might affect your performance the following day. Too much information with too little time is likely to increase your anxiety.
3. Stay balanced
Balance is key. It is essential that you make time for other aspects in your life that are important to you. For example; exercising, attending religious commitments and socialising with friends and family. Spend time with people who have a positive effect on your well-being. It is important that you do not neglect other aspects of your life as these are the things that will keep you motivated and encouraged to study. Making time for other things in your life will give you something to look forward to and lessen the burden of having to study.
4. Stay healthy
Self-care is essential when preparing for an exam. You cannot expect to focus, stay motivated and attend to studying when you are not physically, mentally, emotionally and/or spiritually well. Try to include some light exercise in your study schedule, and make sure that you eat regularly to support concentration and energy levels. Do not skip breakfast. Eating breakfast has been shown to give you energy; improve your concentration and mood. Obtain professional dietary advice if you feel that your eating habits need improvement.
5. Get support
Exam time can be emotionally taxing, and having supportive people can be very helpful. You should try to identify supportive friends, family members, and teachers/lecturers that you can turn to when you need a helping hand. Speaking to others in the same boat as you also sometimes helps curb the anxiety and stress of studying. Supporting each other helps one feel empowered, and can be a powerful reminder that you’re not alone. Sharing your experiences or study tips may also be helpful. Be mindful of who you interact with before writing an exam - try to avoid those that may make you feel more stressed out. Remember, it is normal to feel some anxiety before a big exam; in fact, a little anxiety might help you get motivated to study. However, if your anxiety is disabling you, paralysing your thinking and/or undermining your academic performance, you may need to talk to someone you trust, such as your parents, friend or your teacher. They might help put things into perspective. In addition, you may also seek professional help. Getting support during this time is important as it may help you alleviate anxiety.
6. Be goal-directed
Keep the end goal in mind throughout your studies. This will encourage you to put your head down and work in order for you to feel confident, prepared and calm. The studying is the only thing in your control when writing an exam. The paper you get and the marking thereafter is not something you have influence over. Do everything within your power and the result will speak for itself.
Ensuring you maintain a balanced lifestyle is an essential part of optimising your academic performance. If you are feeling healthy, mentally prepared, emotionally strong and spiritually empowered, studying will not be as challenging or burdensome as it may appear.
Do you need help with managing the stress of studying? Contact The Johannesburg Parent & Child Counselling Centre 011 484 1734