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9 Tips for Managing Exam Stress: A Guide for International Students in Bulgaria

Understanding Exam Stress

Firstly, it’s important to understand that exam stress is a common experience for students worldwide. You aren’t crazy, and you are definitely not the only person feeling this way, take a look around at your classmates and you’ll quickly realise that everyone feels the same pressure. It’s a completely natural response to feel stressed and overwhelmed, recognizing this can help normalize your feelings and make them easier to manage. You know what else will help you manage your exam stress? Reading this article 🙂

1. Plan Your Study Time

Ideally you’ll have started studying for exams weeks in advance. Start by creating a study schedule that breaks your revision into manageable chunks. This can prevent the feeling of being overwhelmed and help you keep track of your progress. If you are cramming everything in at the last minute (don’t worry, it happens) then this will still be a useful way to manage your time.

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2. Feed Your Brain

You are what you eat, and stuffing your face with frozen pizza will turn your brain into molten cheese. That’s not exactly true, but there is a point to this! While it is obviously tempting to just throw a pizza in the oven, or order a take away – fast food, sugary food and processed food can cause rapid spikes in blood sugar, leading to difficulty concentrating, and feeling fatigued. Plus, eating healthy, brain-boosting foods doesn’t take as much effort as you might think. Snacking on foods like walnuts, roasted chickpeas, and citrus fruits will provide vital vitamins for concentration. For dinners, try incorporating bone broth, salmon, olive oil or avocados for a boost of extra focus during your study sessions.

3. Stay In Touch

Stay in touch with your home town and don’t forget to call your mom! Maintaining regular contact with friends and family back home can provide emotional support and a sense of familiarity. Ring your best friend for a rant, send a snapchat of your stack of books or send your sister a wall of text that she’ll inevitably ignore. Whatever you choose, stay in touch with the people that care about you.

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3. Connect With Other International Students

Building a support network of other international students can be incredibly helpful. They can offer you advice, empathy, and friendship during stressful exam periods. Not to mention, study buddies! Studying in groups and quizzing each other will not only help you retain information, but it will also bring you all closer as friends.

4. Take Regular Study Breaks

You’ve probably been told this all the way through school but the facts don’t lie – taking regular breaks will help you retain information! Studies show that taking regular breaks can also improve concentration and reduce stress. Try the Pomodoro Technique: study for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break. Set alarms on your phone or watch to remind you to take a break. It’ll keep you consistent plus it means that you’ll be wasting less of your valuable study time counting down the minutes until your next break.

5. Move Your Body

Another fact that you probably already know is that regular physical activity can boost your mood and energy levels, helping to alleviate exam stress. Whether it’s a walk around campus or a quick workout, try to incorporate some form of exercise into your daily routine. If you really can’t find the time, then utilise your study breaks to go for a short walk, or have a little stretch. At the very least, it will provide your spine momentary relief from your shrimp-like posture.

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6. Remember To Breathe

Mindfulness and relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, yoga, and meditation can help calm your mind and reduce stress. If you are really cramming information for exams, consider the calming rule of 3, it only takes a few seconds. Mentally name 3 things that you can see, then close your eyes and ponder 3 things you can hear, 3 things you can smell, three things that you can touch and 3 things that you can taste. It’s an excellent mindfulness exercise.

7. Get Some Sleep

Adequate sleep is crucial for memory and learning. Try to maintain a regular sleep schedule and create a restful sleeping environment. That means putting down your phone at least two hours before you intend to sleep, don’t study in your bedroom, and avoid caffeine in the evenings. Your bedroom should be a haven, exam time is no exception.

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9. Reach Out For Support

If you’re feeling completely overwhelmed by exam stress, don’t hesitate to reach out for support. This could be a trusted friend, family member, or university counselling services. Many Bulgarian Universities offer discounted or even free counselling sessions for students.

Do you feel a little bit calmer yet?

Exam stress is a necessary part of the university experience, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. By implementing these simple strategies, hopefully you can manage your stress levels and navigate your exams with a little bit more confidence.

Finally, exams are only one minor part of your university journey. They don’t define your worth or predict your future success. So, take a deep breath, do your best, and know that you’re not alone in this.