How I deal with my exam anxiety

With final exams and assignments happening, it can be tough to take some time to relax and take care of yourself.

Wooden squares that spell anxiety Photo:

Finals worry me every year. The thought of wanting to succeed and do stellar in each class hangs over me like a cloud, as I’m sure it does for many others, and the expectations can be high. But I’ve developed strategies that have helped me better succeed on my finals by changing my mindset and learning to relax more throughout the exam season.


Relax and check the boxes

After my first year at Dal, I started to get into a few habits to help me relax more during finals. One that I love is making a checklist for each course. I put sticky notes on my computer for each class with all of my tasks I need to complete. It helps me be organized and get things done efficiently and on time. After all, who doesn’t love checking boxes off a long to-do list? It helps me prepare for finals a week or two early to avoid cramming all the information at the last minute. Studying the night before is never easy or enjoyable when you’re worried.


Deep breaths and doze off

Before my final exam, I always do a deep breathing/meditation exercise on my Headspace App. It has breathing exercises that help me to be mindful of myself and how I feel, and bring myself to a calm state of mind before I write. It slows down my brain and allows me to feel a bit more comfortable going into stressful situations. I also like to ensure I’m adequately nourished and have had a restful sleep the night before. This has done wonders for me—a structured sleep schedule is something that most students may have compromised. But it’s crucial that, starting a couple of weeks leading up to final exams, you’re well-rested so you can perform your best when it comes time for your exam.


Think positive

Your mindset leading up to and even during the exam is crucial to doing well. Mental Rehearsal has done wonders for me—learning that the way we think can take a significant toll on how we feel. Altering how you think about the exam, whether it be, “I feel like I am going to fail this,” or “I need to get an 87 to get an A+ in this course,” not only severely affects the way we think but can cause a lot of unnecessary stress before your exam.

Positive self-talk and reframing your negative thoughts have worked well for me throughout my time at Dal. For example, I used to say to myself, “I will not do well on this final. I am not ready.” Now, I refocus those thoughts to, “I know this material, I have studied hard, I need to give myself some time to find the answer.” It can give you the boost of confidence you need to go in feeling confident and ready to take on the challenge.

Giving yourself time to think by moving on to another question if you don’t know the answer to the question right away has helped me so I don’t dwell on one question and get flustered over it. Going to questions that I do know first also gives me the confidence boost I need to start the exam on the right foot—knowing that I know the material, I need to pause and think about it for a minute.


Going into your final exams with a confident mindset and a rested mind can be a great way to remove some of your stress. And these tips don’t only apply to exams—they can be used for your regular work throughout the year as well. Good luck!


Dalhousie's Stay Connected Mental Health Peer Support workers are here to support the Dalhousie community, and have our own personal experiences with mental health, allowing us to identify, relate to, and support other students. Find more info about how to connect with us here.