Pupillary Pathways

Tips and Tricks for Managing Stress

Posted by Amanda Dexter on Nov 11, 2015 7:30:00 AM
Amanda Dexter
Dr. Amanda K. Dexter received her optometric training at Southern California College of Optometry in Fullerton, California, where she was Class of 2010 Valedictorian. She also completed a residency in Primary Care and Ocular Disease at the Veteran's Affairs Hospital in San Diego, California. Dr. Dexter is the Manager and Program Coordinator for OptoPrep, the premiere online study resource for the NBEO Part I & II.

With Part 2 of NBEO coming up around the corner, many of you 3rd year optometry students are likely starting to feel the pressure. Studying for one of the biggest exams of your life can be very stressful and can take a toll on your mind and body.

During this time, it is very easy to slip into “zombie mode” and forget about your needs and your happiness when all you can focus on is studying, passing the test, and the consequences that will occur if you don’t.

This pathway can lead to a slippery slope of neglecting yourself, your health, and your well-being; all of which are counterproductive when it comes to trying to efficiently and effectively study.

If you are one of those people who tends to get overwhelmed and anxious, and has a difficult time dealing with stress that accompanies studying for an important exam, I have come up with 10 tips and tricks that you can (and should) utilize to manage this stress so that don’t head down to road to self-destruction.

1. Take a Deep Breath 

When you feel the anxiety starting to build up in your body, take a few moments to just breathe. Lie down or sit up straight, put your hands down by your sides and breathe in slowly through your nose until your lungs are completely full. Hold the breath for a moment before exhaling, making sure to push out every last bit of air. This simple exercise will allow you to take a step back from a stressful situation, re-oxygenate your blood, and should calm you enough to return to your studies with a clearer mind. 

2. Believe in Yourself

If you take the time to properly study for your big exams you should do just fine. Remember, you know this stuff, you’ve learned it all at some point before, and you are smart. You can do this, and you will get past this test. There is no need to worry excessively. 

3. Keep Things in Perspective

The NBEO might seem like the most important and crucial thing in your life right now, but in the grand scheme of things it is only a very small part. There was a lot of great things that happened before this test, and there is a lot of life left after, no matter the outcome. Respect yourself for being where you are today and how how far you have already come to reach your goal of becoming an optometrist. You will get there.

4. Exercise Regularly

Take a break from your studies to get in some regular physical activity. It is important to make sure that you don’t neglect yourself and your health during this stressful time. Some students say that they quit exercising while studying for important exams because they don’t have enough time or energy. Exercise aids in giving your brain much needed breaks, and although it seems counterintuitive, exercising will actually give you more energy to endure the long days of studying. 

5. Take Study Breaks

Make sure to give yourself breaks during long periods of studying, even if its just for a short while. When you are super stressed out and have been studying for hours, it’s easy to become tired, disinterested, and your mind will start to wander; resulting in you not doing your best work anyway. Even if you feel like you are short on study time, you will be better served by taking a minute to ease yourself than by working yourself to a grinding halt by forcefully pushing yourself too far. 

6. Change your Scenery

Keep it interesting. Study at different locations throughout campus, go to a local coffee shop, library, friend’s house, or even take your books and read outside at a park. Avoid sitting in your room at your desk for hours on end. You will get bored, you will get tired, and your productivity will suffer. 

7. Practice Good Sleep Habits

Sleep deprivation can cause many physical and mental health problems and can increase your already elevated stress levels. It is also much harder to study effectively when you are tired and lacking sleep. Make sure to get to bed at a reasonable hour to ensure that you are well-rested and recharged. Staying up too late (or all night) drains your energy and makes studying an uphill battle. 

8. Eat Healthy

Be sure to eat regular nutritious meals and minimize junk food; your brain will thank you! Stress is a physical reaction, and by building up your healthy habits, you’ll be better suited to handle it. Limit the use of stimulants (like caffeine) which can elevate your body’s response to the stress around you and make your thinking less clear. 

9. Treat Yo Self!

Reward yourself for studying productively and following your study goals and timelines. If you make it through a difficult section and feel confident in what you have learned and retained, take some time to do something nice for yourself. Go get a mani/pedi with your friends, treat yourself to your favorite restaurant, or take a hike and enjoy nature. However small your treat may be, taking this time tells your body and your brain that things are under control. 

10. Seek Support

If you are really having a difficult time managing your stress, seek the support of your friends and family. It is ok to vent about your stressful feelings, but make sure that you don’t focus exclusively on the negative experiences; try to also think of things that are going well for you, and share those experiences as well. Do not feel afraid or ashamed if you need to take it a step further and seek professional help. Many schools have therapists or counseling centers that are available for students. Optometry school and everything that goes along with being a student can be quite overwhelming; don’t suffer in silence and don’t be afraid to ask for help. 

-Dr. Dexter

The Top 15 Tips and Tricks for Studying for Part I of NBEO®

We’ve put together a ton of great tips and tricks for studying for Part I of NBEO along with two tailored study programs that will help you thoroughly prepare for the big day. Remember, you’ve made it this far and you can totally do this!

Some of the Top 15 Tips include:

  • Familiarize Yourself with the Test Format
  • Tackle the Weak Subjects Early
  • Start Sooner and Ease Into It
  • ...and 12 more!

NBEO Part I Study Guide The Top 15 Tips and Tricks for Studying for Part I

Topics: Stress