When we are in survival mode (fight or flight), energy is diverted from our brain, to our muscles, narrowing our attention, making it harder to think clearly, creatively and with perspective (Cottrell, 2019).
What works for some people when coping with stressful situations does not work for everyone, and it is important to create your own personal toolbox or support plan. The following suggestions have evidence to support their usefulness in promoting wellbeing.
STRESS MANAGEMENT TECHNIQUES
- Take regular breaks
- Work regular hours (avoid working extensive hours)
In times of extreme stress
- Try to distinguish between internal stress (e.g. feelings, thoughts/intrusions) and external stress (e.g. negative aspects of work environment)
- Discuss stress related event with someone (e.g. peer support)
- Communicate reflections on the experience (could discuss with supervisor)
- Take time to do activities that you enjoy or find comfort in (e.g. music, film, sport, hobbies)
How to Perform Under Pressure
In order to be able to perform better in exams and with study we need to learn flexible techniques for managing stress.
Ways to respond:
- Write down what is worrying you. What are your main fears? What is the likelihood of this happening? What will I do if this does happen? Is this a feeling or a fact?
- This helps to get ruminations out of your head and onto paper, when you see it all written down it will give you a different perspective – Use Healthy Thinking to problem solve
- Start tasks early so you have time to deal with unforeseen issues.
- Develop meditation, mindfulness, and breathing exercises.
- Talk to others when you are feeling stressed
- Look after basic needs: sleep, nutrition, exercise, time off.
- Maintain a positive mindset: focus on what you can control
Visualisation: How to Stay Cool Under Pressure
The technique of visualisation is often used by athletes to help to remain calm under pressure and perform at their best. This technique comes from sports psychology.
It can also be used for other evaluative situations such as exams, interviews and practical exams. It involves visualisation yourself in the evaluative situation in detail. You go through each step of the process, imagining how you would like things go. It will help you to get in the zone and feel less anxious when you are in the real scenario.