Managing final exam stress

Nov 17, 2020 | SAMU Blog, SAMU Wellbeing

Exam season and holiday season is upon us. I know that these can be stressful, but also joyous times. Here are some of my tips and tricks on how to succeed on your exams and how to manage stress. Some of these may be commonly known, but it doesn’t hurt to reiterate. These tips do not work for everyone, if you have your way of studying and it works, then keep on doing what you are doing!

  1. Drink plenty of water – I prefer nice cold water. You can add lemon to help detoxify, or mint leaves or even rosemary to help with concentration.
  2. Try and steer away from sugary drinks and limit your caffeine – this is the hardest one for me, I love my coffee.
  3. Try and designate a study area. Make it comfortable, but not too comfortable. Make sure you are sitting up, try and isolate yourself or wear noise cancelling headphones. Also, make sure the area isn’t too warm or too cold.
  4. Some people like to burn incense or use focusing oils in a diffuser. A specific smell, chewing gum of a certain flavour or even listening to the same music can help you subconsciously remember things.
  5. Set up your area with all the supplies you need – I usually have like 3 different beverages including water, make sure you have writing utensils, paper, your computer, textbook and charger cords as well as tissues, etc. Put your phone on silent if you can and stay off your laptop or other devices if possible. Make sure there is no TV or any other electronics in the room (get someone else to hide the remote if you have to).
  6. Take plenty of breaks! A lot of people will study for hours on end. If you do not get up and walk around at least every hour, I suggest you do so. This helps with blood circulation and helps reduce the stress on the body. I know taking breaks can add anxiety, but it pays off in the end. Take a 5-minute break every 25 minutes, if possible. Stand up, breathe deeply, stretch, rest eyes, and take a sip of water.
  7. Make sure you sleep well. A great idea is going for a short walk around the block before you wind down for sleep. This helps you get fresh air, exercise and relax. I like to listen to music during my walk and possibly even go sit in the park on the swings for a little bit (please stay safe, ensure you have a form of emergency contact and it is a safe area, especially if it is dark). Stay on a sleep schedule even if you want to study all night.
  8. Other things that can help reduce stress are exercise, meditation, or guided meditation, yoga, etc.
  9. Unfortunately, cramming an hour before your exam might not do much, so make sure you don’t get flustered and anxious cramming for your exam. Take deep breaths and review what you already know, do not try to learn new material.
  10. Creating study notes throughout the semester can help immensely on quizzes, midterms and exams. I know this can be hard especially for online class.
  11. I noticed that if I start my day on electronics, playing on my phone or watching a show, I have difficulty being productive. I suggest waking up (no snoozing… ok maybe just once), make yourself a healthy breakfast, or as I call it, brain food and listen to music if that helps energize you. SAMU has its breakfast club if you need a healthy and hearty breakfast. SAMU understands it’s hard to operate on an empty stomach. To ensure students have the sustenance they need to start their day, SAMU’s Breakfast Club offers a healthy breakfast for participating students on a semi-monthly basis
  12. Showers can be a great way to hep wake up or it can also help you relax before bed. If you are extremely stressed, try taking a bath (if possible) with Epsom salts and lavender oil or a lavender candle on the side.
  13. Do your best! All you can do is your best and you can succeed. You got this! It is just an exam and the holidays are right around the corner. Look forward to being done instead of worrying about the exam.
  14. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from your prof or work with others. If you work best quizzing each other with your friends or writing notes with them, feel free to plan a Covid-friendly study date. You can also use Zoom, messenger, MS teams, WhatsApp, etc. (no I was not paid to mention these).
  15. Have healthy snacks. I don’t know about you, but when I get stressed I turn to salty or sweet snacks which is not the healthiest. There are many healthy foods that can satisfy your cravings while also being healthy or if you choose to eat unhealthy, try to limit yourself. Your brain needs certain nutrients to function to its full ability. Some snacks that are great at promoting brain function are dark chocolate, fish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, eggs, green tea, etc. If you are struggling for groceries, SAMU has the Pantry at your service. The Pantry helps subsidize the cost of groceries by providing students with food hampers in times of need and this service is confidential.
  16. Know what mental health resources are available to you. There are plenty of resources available online, through SAMU, MacEwan or AHS:


Peer Support is students helping students. Volunteers provide a confidential space where students can talk about their troubles in a safe environment, and access resources from MacEwan University and the Edmonton area.


This service is included in your health and dental plan. It allows you to get free anonymous mental health assessments, 24/7 crisis text support, a personalized help plan and more. It also offers great resources and apps for stress reduction, helping yourself or others, mental health difficulties and more.


Any student currently enrolled in a credit course at MacEwan University can access free, professional counselling with psychologists and clinical social workers. Complete an initial consultation online or by phone through Wellness and Psychological Services to begin. Visit them online for more information.


Your health and dental plan covers more than just medications and dentist visits. It also covers supplemental health. If you are stressed or having headaches, treat yourself to a massage during the exam or holiday season (while staying safe with COVID-19). Coverage for services of the following practitioners is dependent on your plan option, to an overall maximum of $300-$500 per practitioner, per benefit year (depending on your plan option).

  • physiotherapist* or athletic therapist*
  • registered massage therapist*
  • speech language pathologist*
  • chiropractor, including 1 x-ray examination per benefit year
  • osteopath, including 1 x-ray examination per benefit year
  • naturopath
  • podiatrist/chiropodist, including 1 x-ray examination per benefit year
  • acupuncture

*physician’s prescription/referral required for indicated services

The services of the following practitioners are covered at 80% regardless of your plan option, to an overall maximum of $500 based on reasonable and customary charges, per practitioner, per benefit year. View more information.

P.S. Your health and dental plan also covers some counselling.


Edmonton Primary Care Network (PCN) is made up of doctors and healthcare professionals working together to improve community health. Each PCN is shaped by the family doctors who practice in the area and Alberta Health Services (AHS), ensuring they best serve patient needs. The Government of Alberta provides the funding for PCN services. All PCN services are free to patients. The purpose of the Edmonton PCN is to work together with family doctors and their patients to build a healthier community.

Note: you may need a referral for some services, which you could get through myvirtualdoctor on your health and dental plan or you could see a doctor at the MacEwan Health Centre. Any group therapy sessions, do not need referrals, but may need you to sign up so that they have an idea of the number of people attending.


1-866-332-2322 (24/7)


1-877-303-2642 (24/7)

Other resources available at


Please consult a healthcare professional before starting any natural supplements or if you are having severe mental health issues such as suicidal thoughts, crippling depression (not wanting to get out of bed), anxiety attacks, etc. Please be careful due to COVID-19 and if you have any allergies. I am not a doctor, these are what help me and everyone is different, so some things may not work for you.


Holidays getting too expensive and stressing you out? Stay on budget this winter by using student discounts available to all students. Visit for more information.


P.S. I have many other pointers, so if you want more suggestions, email me at

Stephanie Ouellette | Vice President Operations and Finance (she/her)

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