Exam Stress? That’s Nothing…

by eloisehendy

Exam seasons are horrible. They beat winter hands down for the worst season of the year – even the 6 month winter that Scotland is sometimes lucky enough to enjoy. With no Christmas cheer whatsoever (especially if you’re enduring a sober revision period) and the idea of ‘a surprise’ not conjuring images of unexpected gifts but panic attack inducing, entirely off-course questions, that count for 40% of your degree, this stressful season is far tougher than a solid month of driving rain, or even a week with the entire extended family. Nervous pacing, odd superstitions and lucky charms, the consumption of a box of cereal in under 8 hours – all the actions that would classically call someone’s grasp of reality into question are par for the course in a single day of ‘serious study’. So every student needs all the tools they can gather to stop themselves sinking into an anxious, unshowered wreck. Every student needs a stress fighting kit on hand, for those nights when reading the same series of unintelligible notes once more just can’t be faced.

However, the go-to tactic of lighting scented candles, breathing deeply and sticking on a ‘comforting’ film is not always the best way to banish exam hall fears or library over-exposure. Sure, Disney movies might give you a warm glow on the inside for a while, but its more than likely that by the third time the animals start singing you’ll be bewailing your student status and crying for someone to take you back to your childhood days when exams were as far in the distance as Prince Charming could ride on his noble steed. What is really needed in times of stress is even more stress. Okay, this may sound counter-intuitive, but think about it – what could possibly make your upcoming three hours of anxiety feel more like a piece of cake than a high-tension, time pressured hostage situation? If Bruce Willis can avoid dying, hard, five times, then you can definitely make it through three exams. So blow out that candle and get ready for your heart rate to soar; pre exam nerves will be a relief in comparison.

‘127 Hours’, Danny Boyle – Okay, so your allocated exam hall chair may feel like an inescapable trap, but even the worst exam doesn’t usually require you slowly hacking your arm off. Pinned down you may be, but this ordeal will make yours feel a lot less painful.

‘Rear Window’, Alfred Hitchcock – Hitchcock is of course known as the master of suspense, so pretty much anything directed by this dude is guaranteed to make your highlighting / flashcard woes feel less intense. Most people would agree that a poorly revised subject is less damaging than a persistent, murderous flock of birds. However, this film ramps up Hitchcock’s signature style to a new degree, as the aimless neighbourhood spying of Jeff (James Stewart) is made more disturbing when he suspects he is a witness to a murder. Add into the anxiety bargain that Jeff is confined to his house with a broken leg and you have a truly helpless horrific situation. Fear of leaving your fiercely fought for seat in the library will seem like a luxury in comparison to Jeff’s window seat spot.

‘War of the Worlds’, Steven Spielberg – It may feel like the world is coming to an end in the aftermath of a poor exam, but it actually isn’t. Okay, so the shadow of re-sits may hang over you, but at the moment you are pretty safe from planet invading aliens advancing upon you and everyone you love.

‘Requiem for a Dream’, Darren Aronofsky – As with Hitchcock, with Aronofsky in the director’s chair you are pretty much guaranteed to have your mind messed with. However, with this psychological drama you are probably guaranteed to be left so shaken and disturbed that you will be desperately reaching for your notebooks to try and focus on anything grounded in reality. A harrowing dive into different drug addictions and delusions that involves paranoia, desperation, sexual exploitation, insanity, infection and misery – with prisons, psychiatric wards and sex shows as backdrops – this is an unrelenting spiral into increased mental and physical entrapment. Your reality will suddenly assume a heavenly glow in comparison, and the prospect (however slim it may at times seem) of actually passing these things, getting a degree and, just maybe, doing something with your life will seem like the best Christmas gift anyone could ever receive.