Imperial College Health Centre

Central London Clinical Commissioning Group

Feeling Stressed?

Don’t despair, you are not alone!

During revision and exam periods, anxiety and stress are very common problems for students – even for those who appear confident and calm.

A small amount of anxiety can actually be beneficial – it can make you alert and focused – but too much anxiety means you will have trouble thinking clearly and this means you aren’t likely to do your best work.

What exactly is “Stress”?

Stress is the body’s normal response to a challenge, threat or excitement.The consequence of stress depends largely on how you interpret the physical symptoms – it can help motivate you or it can paralyze you — the decision is yours!

Take, for example, the following scenario:

  • Joe: a student just before a critical exam
  • Jane: an athlete just before a big competition
  • Both Joe and Jane are aware of the same physical symptoms:
    • sweaty palms
    • racing heart
    • knot or butterflies in the pit of the stomach

Joe, the student, feels distressed by his symptoms and views them negatively, as if the symptoms are a sign of impending failure. Joe may have trouble sleeping and spend a lot of time worrying about his physical condition and the upcoming exam.

Jane, the athlete, interprets her symptoms as a sign that she can motivate herself to perform well. She views the symptoms as evidence that she is “psyching herself up” for the big competition.

The bottom line?

Stress can be a barrier to optimal performance or a motivating agent – it all depends on how you interpret, label and manage what you are experiencing.

The trick is to figure out what level of stress is motivating for you and what amount is paralyzing and then work to keep it in the motivating zone.