How to Relax Before a Final Exam in College

Three Parts:Staying Calm The Day BeforeGetting Good SleepStaying In Control The Day of The Exam

Your final exams will have a huge impact on your life. You know it and you want to keep your stress level under control. Relaxing before the exams is the best way to perform well. This tutorial will give you a few tips to face this difficult time of your life. But don’t forget to study!

Part 1
Staying Calm The Day Before

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    Use a schedule. In order to stay calm, you will need to have a firm grasp on your time. You will probably want to review but you should also take a few hours for yourself. The best way to find a good balance is to use a daily sheet to monitor your activities.[1]
    • Leave time for breaks. It’s important to stop once in a while to allow your brain to rest. Get up, walk around, give yourself a good stretch.[2]
    • Be realistic. Instead of trying to review everything, set priorities. If you target your weaknesses, you will cover far more ground.
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    Eat and drink well. Stress has an effect on the body and on our ability to study. Try to maintain a healthy diet and remember that moderation is the key. There is no need to drink ten cups of coffee or energy drinks to work more efficiently. If anything, it will make you more nervous and might prevent you from sleeping.[3]
    • Drink plenty of water. It's good for your body and research has demonstrated that it boosts your brain's reaction time.[4]
    • Don’t eat spicy, greasy, or heavy food. It takes longer to digest and could keep you up late.[5]
    • Try a relaxing herbal tea. Chamomile, peppermint, and passionflower are all good choices to help you unwind.[6]
    • Avoid illegal substances. Many students use cognitive-enhancing drugs to get higher grades.[7] It is both illegal and dangerous.
    • Don’t drink alcohol. You might think it helps you sleep, but alcohol actually disrupts your REM sleep, the type of deep sleep that helps you feel awake and alert the next morning. Plus, you don’t want a hangover the morning of the big exam! Skip the booze -- you’ll be glad you did.[8]
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    Do some exercise. Sport is a great way to release the pressure after a hard day of work. You will probably have spent a lot of time in your room studying. Going outside and doing physical activities will relax your muscles and occupy your mind with something fun.[9]
    • Sport is great but avoid dangerous games. You don’t want to break your leg the day before your final exams.
    • Go with your friends. Combining social and physical activities is rewarding.
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    Try some aromatherapy. If you’re feeling very jittery, try using an essential herbal oil to help you unwind and relax. Add a few drops to an eye mask or your pillow, or soak in a calming bath. You could use an oil diffuser, too. Lavender has been shown to help people relax, de-stress, and fall asleep.[10] You can also try one of the following to help battle anxiety and stress:[11][12]
    • Chamomile
    • Sage
    • Neroli
    • Rose
    • Lemon balm
    • Bergamot
    • Jasmine

Part 2
Getting Good Sleep

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    Take a warm bath. The warm water will help you relax and get ready for bed. Add a few drops of lavender or another essential oil to help soothe your nerves.[13]
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    Stop working at least 30 minutes before going to bed. You need a cooling-down period. Listen to some music or read a book. Don’t call a friend to talk about the exams. It will only stress you.
    • Avoid blue light from screens, such as from phones, TVs, laptops, or tablets, for at least 2-3 hours before you want to sleep. Blue light emitted from screens can interfere with your body’s melatonin production and keep you from sleeping well.[14]
  3. 3
    Try some deep breathing exercises. Deep breathing can help you relax your body and get ready to sleep. Focus on breathing from your diaphragm and take about 6-8 deep breaths per minute.[15]
    • Place one hand on your belly, below your ribcage, and one hand on your chest.
    • Inhale through your nose. You should feel the hand on your belly lift as you breathe in. If you don’t, adjust your breathing until you feel your stomach expand as you inhale.
    • Hold the breath for 1-2 seconds. Then, slowly exhale for a count of 4.
    • Repeat this 6-8 times per minute for a few minutes.
  4. 4
    Try relaxing your muscles in groups. Called progressive muscle relaxation, this technique can help you de-stress and get ready for sleep.[16] Begin with your toes and squeeze them as tightly as you can for 5 seconds. Release the tension and relax for 5 seconds. Then, move up to your feet. Curl them towards your knees as hard as you can for 5 seconds. Release the tension and relax for 5 seconds.
    • Continue tensing and relaxing muscle groups all up your body, including your legs, buttocks, stomach, back, shoulders, neck, and face.
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    Sleep a good night. Having a good night is important [17] but there is no need to go to bed earlier than usual if you aren’t tired. You don’t want to get nervous in your bed because you can’t sleep. Once in bed, try to keep your mind off your exams. Think about something relaxing, such as your next holiday, or about a happy memory.
    • If you can’t sleep, get up and go to another room, but don’t turn on the TV or play with your phone. Listen to some quiet music or read a book. You’ll probably feel sleepy in a few minutes, and then you can go back to bed.[18]
    • If you don’t manage to sleep much or at all, don’t panic. Research shows that it might not be as important as you think. Your body can usually handle one night of less sleep because adrenaline will kick in.[19]
    • Don’t forget to set up an alarm. You don’t want to be late.

Part 3
Staying In Control The Day of The Exam

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    Go through your morning routine. You will probably wake up feeling stressed. This is normal and there are ways to keep the anxiety at bay. Take a relaxing shower or a bath and dress for your exam. Wear comfortable clothes to feel at ease. Eat a healthy breakfast and make sure to drink plenty of water. Dehydration can make you feel foggy or tired.[20]
    • Don’t work while eating your breakfast. It is important to dedicate your attention to one activity at a time. Enjoy your food and make sure to start the day with a positive attitude.
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    Eat smart. Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day. Studies show that people who eat breakfast tend to perform better on exams.[21] Eat some whole-grain complex carbohydrates, such as oatmeal or low-sugar muesli, that will digest slowly, helping your blood sugar stay steady.[22]
    • A few eggs would also be a good idea, as they contain protein and choline, which may help improve your memory.[23]
    • A portion of fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as mackerel or salmon, may help boost your brainpower.[24]
    • If you’re in a rush, consider some protein-packed yogurt, a banana, and some seeds and nuts. The mixture of carbohydrates and proteins will help power you through the morning.
    • If you usually enjoy a cup of tea or coffee with breakfast, go ahead! Caffeine may have a positive effect on your memory, according to researchers.[25] Just don’t drink so much that you feel jittery.
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    Go through your notes. If you have studied seriously, you shouldn’t need more than fifteen minutes to go through your notes or a difficult point. Now is not the time to accumulate more information.
    • You will probably have the feeling that you forgot everything. It’s a common sensation among students and there is no reason to panic. When asked specific questions during the exam, you will remember what you studied.
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    Use relaxation techniques. If you feel like panicking, try a relaxation technique. The following techniques should progressively relax your entire body:
    • Breathe deeply. It might seem unnatural at first but it will slow your heartbeat and lower your blood pressure.
    • Focus. Sit comfortably, breathe deeply and slowly. Once your body gets used to this, close your eyes and focus on something relaxing. Do this for at least ten minutes.
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    Prepare yourself for the day. Pack your food and a big bottle of water and think about what you need for the exams. Do you need a ruler? A pen? Paper? Make a list and cross every item off once it’s put in the bag. Don’t forget to silence your phone. You don’t want it to ring in the middle of the exam!
    • Take more than little. It’s better to come prepared and ready than having to borrow what you need for the exam.
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    Go to your exam early enough and stay focused. You don’t want to be late for your exam but there is no reason to arrive too early either. Being stuck with other students and comparing your knowledge is not the best way to stay relaxed.
    • At this point, don’t talk with your friends about the test you’re about to take. Stress is contagious.[26] Don’t let the others make you feel bad. If you have studied, there is no reason to think you will perform worse.
    • Stay positive even after the exams. It’s sometimes difficult to tell if you did well. Once again, don’t let the others affect your morale. If you’ve done your possible, there’s no reason to panic.


  • If you have time, do some deep breathing.
  • Imagine that your stress is a tangible thing, and "put it away" in a closet or shoe box, telling it that it can't follow you to your classroom.

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