As we approach the summer months many students will be preparing for exams.  Exams can be a source of great anxiety so learning to manage your anxiety in an exam situation will help you to perform your best. Below are some tips you can practice to help you manage exam nerves.

1. Breathing exercises
When you feel your anxiety levels rising take a few moments out to refocus on your breathing.  Place your hand on your tummy as this can help you feel more connected with your breath.  Inhale through your nose and try to pull the air down deep as this will encourage you to use more of your lungs capacity and take in more oxygen.   Often when we are anxious our breathing becomes shallow and we use just the upper portion of the lungs.  As we breath more deeply our tummy will rise and swell.  Hold this breath for a count of 3 and then slowly exhale through our mouth. Repeat this five times.

2. Mindfulness meditation techniques
Mindfulness techniques promote awareness of the present moment.  When we feel anxious or stressed our thoughts can race and we can get pulled into catastrophic thinking patterns about the future and this can intensify the sense of panic we are feeling.  Through using mindfulness techniques you can bring your conscious awareness into the here and now.  One way you can do this by mentally working through your senses, one by one, acknowledging all the different sights, smells, sounds and physical sensations you can feel in the moment. You could also use an object that you have with you and concentrate on all the different properties that object has.  This exercise should only take a few minutes and will help you to focus on the task before you.  

3. Tense and release exercises
This technique uses the muscles and the breath to aid relaxation.  The idea is that you work through the body, starting at the feet, tensing small groups of muscle with the in breath.  Hold the tension for a count of 3 and then slowly breath out relaxing the muscles in the chosen area.  You then work up the body taking a small section at a time till you reach the top of the head.  This technique is helpful as stress and anxiety is often felt physically as muscle tension.  By gradually working through the body you are encouraging the muscles to let go of the tension and this relieves stress. 

4. Mind maps
If you are feeling stumped by an essay style exam question you could try using a mind map to help brainstorm and organise your knowledge and ideas around the subject. Reserve your judgement with regards to whether information is correct or relevant and just try to jot down the flow of thoughts that come into your mind when you read the exam question.  Allow a few minutes for this and then go through your thoughts highlighting the ones that you think can be used to answer the question.  This technique is also useful if you are faced with a choice of questions which all look equally appealing or unappealing.  This technique will help you to access the knowledge you have learnt and structure your answer.  To find out more about how to create mind maps and their applications visit the website of Tony Buzan, who has developed the technique of using mind-maps within education

5. Zentangles
Zentagling is a creative technique that uses doodles or tangles to bring about relaxation.  You start by drawing a box or circle and then you divide it into sections using lines.  You then fill in each area with a simple, repeating design or doodle.  They can be relaxing in an exam situation as they don't require any special materials or tools and they can help to stimulate creativity. They will also create a distraction for yourself and help take your mind of any worrying thoughts.  These can be especially helpful at the end of an exam when you are not able to leave your workspace. 

You can find some ideas to get you inspired here in this video by Art Geek.