Easy ways to beat exam nerves



sue leach 2

The exam season is upon us – and woe betide the parent who dares to suggest enough is enough on the last-minute swotting.

Just about everyone feels nervous before an exam. Low-level tension is good; it enhances exam performance, with a rush of adrenaline keeping us alert and focus.

Here are a few tips to turn panicky angst into productive exam technique – pick and mix to suit you:


  1. Plan a pre-exam routine. Establish a series of steps that you do every time before you get into the room and open that paper. If you make this a ritual, shutting out everyone else, that becomes automatic and comfortable for you, it will become a confidence security blanket.
  2. Adopt a posture that’s open and upright with both feet planted firmly on the ground. This makes us feel powerful, capable, confident and in control, affecting how we perform and meet challenges like exams.
  3. sue leach 3Every time your mind descends into self-defeating thoughts like ‘I can’t do it’ or ‘I haven’t done enough revision’, visualise a huge Stop! sign flashing in front of your eyes. It helps many people to say ‘Stop!’ firmly to themselves at the same time.
  4. Put an elastic band on your wrist and ping it whenever you feel anxious. A little pain overrides panic.
  5. Choose a mantra (word or short phrase), such as ‘Deep breath’ or ‘Keep calm’, and keep saying it under your breath.
  6. Bring something to exams that has a ‘feel good factor’, something that when you touch it will help transport you out of the room to somewhere more relaxed that you associate with this object.
  7. Talk to yourself! Keep up a steady stream of positive affirmations to encourage yourself: ‘Relax, focus, this is going to go well’ or ‘Two questions down, just one more to go’.
  8. Drink plenty of water. Research at the University of Connecticut’s Human Performance Laboratory shows that even mild dehydration – 1.5% loss in the volume of water in the body – affects cognition, concentration, memory and reasoning. In short, our whole ability to think straight!1  Try coconut water which is more effective at hydrating the body than sports and energy drinks.
  9. sue leach 5Avoid stimulants: coffee, tea and fizzy drinks merely give us a short-term energy boost, then comes a crash. Eat a light meal beforehand – your brain consumes 22% of your body's energy, so it needs fuel for optimum exam performance. Choose complex carbohyrates and fruit/veg to provide sustained, calm energy – processed foods and sweet things will make you sluggish.
  10. Regulate your breathing. Take a slow breath in through your nose, puffing out into your lower belly (about 4 seconds). Hold your breath for 1-2 seconds, then breathe out slowly through your mouth (about 4 seconds). Pause for a few seconds before taking another breath, then repeat the cycle at least five times. It’s good to practise this rhythmic breathing from your stomach when you’re not anxious – then you can turn it on to calm and relax you in an exam.
  11. Tense all your muscles – that means all of them, including jaw, buttocks and toes! – and clench for at least 5 seconds. Then exhale (preferably with your mouth open) and let your breath relax your every muscle. It’s also calming to add opening your mouth as wide as you can get it and stick out your tongue – perhaps something to do at home when you’re revising rather than mid-exam!
  12. Finally, plan rewards after exams– you deserve…

Think twice about drugs!

Butterflies in the stomach before exams are normal but for many this anxiety can be so overwhelming and all-consuming that they’re unable to revise in the run-up to exams or suffer exam freeze on the day.

Such is the degree of the problem that the proportion of 15/16-year-olds reporting that they frequently feel anxious or depressed has doubled in the past 30 years, to two in every 30 boys and two in every 10 girls. One in 20 prescriptions for antidepressants is to 16 to 18-year-olds in full-time education2, despite the fact that the most commonly prescribed drug, Fluoxetine (Prozac), carries an increased risk of self-harm and suicidal thoughts.3

There are natural alternative, however. Homeopathy caters for you as an individual, according to your character, personality and thought processes, using remedies that are natural, non-addictive and without side-effects. Check out these links on how a homeopath would determine what is most suitable for you.

Anxiety - Homepathe International

Anxiety & Fears - British Homeopathic Association



For a non-obligation chat about homeopathy contact Sue Leach MA LCPH RSHom at the Natural Health Hub.


The Natural Health Hub is at 87b High Street, Lymington S041 9AN on 2 May 2017. Tucked behind Lymington High Street, along the passageway behind Halifax and Dogs Trust, in the white building on the right in the courtyard at the far end. Please be considerate of neighbours as you enter and leave the building.

To book appointments and classes, call 01590 670955 or go to www.TheNaturalHealthHub.co.uk for the online booking system. Or pop in any time, opening hours Monday to Saturday 10-5pm.

The Natural Health Hub
87b High Street* 
Lymington SO41 9AN

01590 670955

* Tucked behind Lymington High Street, along the passageway behind Halifax and Dogs Trust, white building on the right in the courtyard at the far end


1 Laurence E Armstrong, Journal of Nutrition 2012
2 The Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), Dec 2014
3 https://www.evidence.nhs.uk/formulary/bnf/current/4-central-nervous-system/43-antidepressant-drugs/433-selective-serotonin-re-uptake-inhibitors#PHP2414














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