Exams coming? Give the stress monster the smackdown with these tips

SINGAPORE - See that large scary thing round the corner?

That's right, it's the EXAMS! 

Let's not kid ourselves - exams are kind of a big deal, and we need to take them seriously.

Some of us however, take them a tiny bit too seriously. Unfortunately, self-harm and suicide can be tragic consequences of academic stress. 

But really, exams don't have to be that scary.

As students get stressed studying in cafes, and cafes get stressed losing money on "student-priced" items, we offer some tips to keep you cruisin' through the exam bruisin'. 

1. Running out of revision time? Why not have a run instead

The countdown timer can be a bane. Life is but a ticking clock, and time and tide wait for no man, so says many a watch commercial after all.

The days to that electronic dance music festival seem to crawl by like a 2.4km run under the hot sun, but the days to the exams past by in the same time you finish "wallop-ing" your favourite wonton mee.

You may be running short on revision time, but you can still go long on health and wellness. 

Simple exercise is truly the elixir you have been looking for.

It could be a quick run. Short of time and space? An intense skipping rope session can do the trick. YouTube is also teeming with seven-minute exercises that work a treat - or rather, work a real sweat!

Fire up those endorphins, which are mood-elevating, pain-killing chemicals in the brain, and loosen those tense muscles. You might just be on your way to beating the stress monster. 

Did I mention that exercise also makes you more alert? Go on then, that chapter on Quantum Physics is all yours to devour now. 

Exercise with a study buddy for added kicks - a muay thai session never left anyone disappointed (just large bruises on the shin perhaps). But remember this golden rule always: "Don't sweat the petty things, and don't pet the sweaty things." 

2. Eat your way out of stress - healthily, of course

You've heard nutritionists say "you are what you eat". Martial artist Bruce Lee also once gave the advice to "be like water". Coincidence? I think not - they were almost certainly talking about helping Singaporean youths beat exam stress. 

According to some studies, keeping hydrated gives us a better cognitive performance. Our brain is made up of 75 per cent water, after all.

Diet-wise, stock up on your protein and carbohydrate reserves, and avoid sugar. Consume amino acid-rich foods such as salmon, carrots, sesame seeds, chicken and dairy. These help in regulating memory and improving brain activity. 

Complex carbohydrates such as wholegrain and pastas better sustain energy for those marathon study sessions at Changi Airport, while simple carbs such as those found in energy bars and soft drinks are less effective.

The tl;dr version: Drink water, eat healthily, and put down that can of Red Bull now.  


Water, lots of it. 

3. Nants ingonyama bagithi baba 

Yes, you got it right, those are indeed the opening words (in Zulu) to the Lion King theme song. 

We may have taken it upon ourselves to save Gaia for many years - but do you know that nature can heal us as well?

In what seems like an eerily mutual relationship drawn from Lion King's Circle Of Life principle, studies have shown that "stress levels can be lowered by regular exposure to greenery and water features, even if they are simulated and not entirely natural". 

Yes, even Gardens by the Bay. 


The Cirrrrrcle of Life, baby.

We may feel that Singapore lacks natural sights, but heading to the nearest garden, field or neighbourhood park for some greenery would be good enough to take your mind off your 12th reading of Pride And Prejudice (hopefully). 

4. From Zzz to A's 

I love to sleep. And I love knowing that sleeping can help my grades. Really, it's true!

As you settle into your bed to sleep each night, your brain is also getting ready to consolidate your memories for the day. 

An optimal level of sleep leads to more effective learning, while waking up lots of time during the night has been reported to be a strong predictor of lower academic performance. 

What makes good sleep for students aged between 16 and 19? Nine hours of shut-eye and earlier bedtimes. 

Have problems sleeping? Cut the bad habits - no energy drinks and coffee before bed. And here's the toughie - no social media use half an hour before bedtime. Challenging, but there are proven results. 

Dad and mum, now you know why I sleep so much!

And if all else fails... 

... have some self-belief!