If you are starting to feel academic anxiety creeping in, you’re not alone. Feeling nervous about studying is a common experience for many students, and there are several causes behind the studying anxiety phenomenon. For some students, it may be the difficulty of the subject matter, how important the assignment or exam is, or overall emotional and mental well-being.
Before attempting to overcome studying nerves, it is important to be mindful of the cause and to remember that a certain degree of anxiety is par for the course for students.
Regardless of how intelligent you are, getting to grips with new information in a way that will equip you to ace an exam or get a high grade on an essay requires copious mental effort; as your brain processes information, it also creates new neural pathways, which can lead to cognitive fatigue and information overload.
It is normal for your emotions to fluctuate while you’re studying and to note a lack of confidence as you take on the challenge of learning – especially if your studying skills are a little rusty or you are attempting to develop an expert understanding of a complex subject matter. In time, with enough practice, studying will become less mentally taxing, especially if you practice studying self-care by taking enough study breaks, ensuring you’re getting enough sleep and looking after your holistic health away from your study material.
5 Top Tips If You’re Nervous About Studying
1. Try Relaxation and Breathing Exercises
If you experience symptoms of nervousness every time you try to decipher your study material, such as feeling lightheaded or being unable to calm racing and worrying thoughts, you may benefit from practising relaxation or breathing exercises before, during, or after your study sessions.
You can experiment with mindfulness meditation on apps such as Calm or Headspace or practice breathing techniques during your study sessions to reduce your heart rate and levels of stress hormones in your body and slow your breathing.
A quick way to calm yourself when studying anxiety strikes is to inhale through your nose for four seconds, hold your breath for two seconds, and then exhale through the mouth for six seconds. Relaxing breathing exercises can also enhance concentration and improve energy levels due to the increased oxygen supply to the brain.
2. Create a Study Routine That Works for You
By establishing a study routine, you will feel more prepared in the run-up to important exams and deadlines. Playing it fast and loose with your studying routine will only leave you feeling more stressed and anxious further down the line, and you will spend your free time feeling guilty for turning your attention away from studying.
To create an effective study routine, be as organised as possible, use productivity planning tools and apps, always leave some room for flexibility as it is common to underestimate how much time tasks will take to complete, and most importantly, always create a routine that works for you.
Creating the right studying routine may be a process of trial and error at first as you work out which time of day you are more receptive to new information or which pre-study rituals work best for you, but remember you are working towards study sessions that are infinitely less mentally taxing and anxiety provoking.
Additionally, you will need to set clear study goals, consider your other responsibilities, eliminate distractions while studying, set realistic time blocks, and always review the effectiveness of your routine.
3. Limit Procrastination Time
If you postpone your study sessions by procrastinating, you may feel better in the short term while you turn your attention to something infinitely less mentally taxing. However, in the long term, your productivity will suffer, you will be more likely to complete tasks at the last minute, leading to a lower quality of work, and you will increase levels of stress and anxiety.
Procrastination can even reinforce negative self-perception, and lead to insomnia. To avoid the consequences of procrastination, always be mindful of how you prepare your schedule and give yourself enough breaks by breaking your study tasks into manageable chunks.
4. Take Control of Your Inner Monologue
Negative thoughts can quickly become negative self-beliefs and spiral into negative behaviours and actions. For example, when studying, you may think, “I can’t do this”, which can lead you to believe that you’re stupid; in turn, you will want to avoid the tasks (studying) that make you feel this way.
If you catch yourself using negative self-talk, nip it in the bud and replace your inner monologue with a more positive mantra; this will help you to foster a sense of calmness, confidence, and positive self-belief.
Your positive mantra could be as simple as “I can do this” or more specific mantras, such as “I can study with a calm and focused mind” or “I am capable of understanding anything I turn my attention to”. If you need more guidance on this, read our 30 positive affirmations to help boost your confidence!
5. Look After Your Physical & Mental Health
If you are neglecting your mental and physical health by not getting enough exercise or sleep or opting for junk food, sugar, and caffeine instead of balanced and nutritious meals, your ability to study effectively and confidently will be compromised.
We have already covered how mentally taxing studying can be; studying is the cognitive equivalent of running a marathon, and you will need to prepare for it by being as kind to your mind and body as possible.
Taking the time to cook healthy meals and keep active may seem as though it will compromise your study time; however, this is far from the case, as it will ensure you have the energy and the cognitive bandwidth to study effectively.
Need Additional Support?
If the tips outlined on this page aren’t enough to help you overcome your anxiety and you feel your ability to perform well and concentrate is being compromised by your mental health, find out about the support options available.
Contact your Students’ Union Advice Service, your tutor, or your academic supervisor to find out which study support services are available. If you are struggling with general anxiety disorder, never hesitate to reach out to a member of the student welfare team, your GP, or a student mental health helpline, such as Student Minds.