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The Shrink-In-Violet: Session 6, Exam Stress

Illustration by Emily Perkins

Hi Shrink-In-Violet,

What can I do to help deal with exam stress? And to stop taking it out on the people around me?…

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My Dearest Reader,

It’s the most blunder-ful time of the year. There’ll be essays for writing, friends will be fighting, and exams will be drawing near. Mistakes will inevitably be made. Much like a turkey, exam season can feel like you’re in a pressure cooker. But before you get burnt out like chestnuts on an open fire, let me reassure you that all hope is not lost.

As Twenty-one Pilots said, you’re Stressed Out (no, returning to your 2014 emo-phase is not a healthy coping mechanism, and I am not endorsing that). Whether it be revising for prelims, finals, or – God forbid – searching for a job in the real world, it is stress season. Everyone is on edge; you could cut through the tension in the library with your stress-ragged fingernails.

Unfortunately, it would seem stress is even more personality-altering than taking up rowing (no, I am not done with the rowing slander just yet). One day you’re as Zen as Master Oogway, the next you’re kung-fu fighting with your college wife over who gets the last seat in the Rad Cam. The mere presence of a loud breather next to you in the library is enough to send you over the edge of that mezzanine. Alas, not even a visit from a herd of alpacas can save you…

We’re all going through it. Mercury is in retrograde; you’re worrying about your grade. But that need not rule your chart. Like that very vague horoscope you read then reposted on your private story captioned ‘omg literally me’, it is just as easy to exaggerate the stress in your life. Still, it is entirely understandable that you should feel under pressure to perform. Ah, academic validation. It is the bane of your existence and the object of all your desires. But unlike Anthony Bridgerton, getting a first unfortunately does not come with a side of Regency smoulder.

I must stress (if you’ll pardon the pun), that anxiety is not the enemy. It keeps us safe, focused, and humbled. Rather, it is the excess of stress that is the problem. Side effects can lead to screaming, crying, throwing up – and taking it out on your friends. But remember that your fellow companions are likely also stressed; they will be more understanding than you realise. Try not to channel that anxiety towards friends. Instead of taking it out on them, take deep breaths. Scream into a pillow. Run down the High Street like a madwoman until that anxious energy has turned into embarrassment.

Put your mental health first, and a first second. A sound mind will always write a better essay than an anxious and sleep-deprived one. Try to schedule time out of every day to do something for yourself. Even if it is a mere half an hour, it will give you something to work towards. Go for a walk, watch your comfort TV show, or scream along to Taylor Swift at the top of your lungs. Your sanity will thank you although your neighbours may not…

Yours in serenity,

Your Shrink-In-Violet

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