Help! I feel overwhelmed by academic stress… It is just too much!

Our course is really very hectic… no time to relax. I just don’t know how to manage. Is there a secret?

Meeting the demands of the course, completing work on time and managing studies is a real challenge for most of the students. Unfortunately, as the demands increase the time available in the day does not increase! The most practical secret to manage this is ‘managing time’. Some tips: find out the available time in the day, make a list of your daily activities along with the time taken for each, now try and see where the extra time is spent. Often time is wasted because of lack of planning, prioritizing and delegation when necessary, not using available help, keeping the things pending till the end (postponement), wasting time over unimportant tasks and not using the alert periods effectively. Now, take a planner (dairy), make a rough plan for the week keeping the priority list in mind. Divide the task for each day. Make a ‘to do’ list for each day and try to stick it (at least by 60-80%) and reward yourself for completing the tasks. This works for many individuals.

I read a lot but panic during the exams and forget everything. What can I do to help myself?

Exam anxiety is experienced by all the students, however for some of them the anxiety is too much and interferes in the performance (forgetting, going blank, physical discomfort such as dizziness, nausea etc.). The main reasons are: 1. Negative thoughts resulting from low self confidence, expectation from self/ others and past experiences of failure 2. Lack of preparation 3. Anxious temperament. Check what the predominant factor is that is contributing to the anxiety. If it is first reason, you may benefit from positive self instructions, acceptance of one’s limitations, coming to terms with one’s abilities (which will be different in different spheres) and having realistic goals. If it is lack of preparation, there is no shortcut to hard work- you need to put efforts and plan your studies/rethink your method of preparation , and if is the third, then a combination of relaxation and mental imagery (gradual exposure to the exam situation) can be of help.

I feel a lot of pressure from my parents and teachers to keep up my rank in the class. It is extremely stressful. I get too much tense due to this. What should I do?

It is very common that many students face pressure to perform form others or from themselves. What is important is to understand that ranks depend on many factors and not just your ability. Excessive preoccupation with getting a rank can in fact actually interfere with doing your best. If your expectations and others’ expectations are not matching, it is better that you have clarity about your wants and expectations and follow what you want to do. Otherwise, you will be forcing yourself and feeling disappointed at the end of the day. Another important thing to keep in mind is to base your goals on your average previous performance and do not keep too ambitious and difficult goals. Finally, accept your abilities and keep working to achieve – the best you can and rather than a rank.


Dr Manjula M.

Dr Manjula M. is associate professor of clinical psychology at NIMHANS, Bangalore. She works in the field of behavioural medicine and youth mental health and has special interest and expertise in helping youth deal with academic stress.