Tag Archives: anxiety

How to Deal with Exam Anxiety

Exam anxiety is a real and legitimate problem that can affect a person’s academic performance. There are however certain skills you can learn to assist with managing exam anxiety.

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Causes:

There are numerous causes for exam anxiety:

  • Poor study skills – Some students do not know how to effectively study for an exam, as a result they feel under prepared and so experience anxiety. Whilst others think they know how to study but are in fact using inadequate methods.
  • Negative self-talk – These are often students who have done badly in previous exams or who dislike sitting for exams and so convince themselves that they will do poorly. The self-doubt makes it difficult for them to concentrate before and even during the exam.
  • The perfectionist – For some students anything less than a distinction is deemed a failure, thus placing exaggerated and unnecessary pressure on themselves.

Symptoms:

Physical symptoms include –

  • tense muscles
  • sweating
  • rapid heart rate
  • nausea
  • rapid or shallow breathing
  • feeling faint

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Cognitive symptoms include:

  • inability to remember simple things
  • illogical thinking
  • mental blocks

In order to deal with exam anxiety one needs to address both the physical and cognitive aspects of the anxiety. Certain techniques are specifically recommended for the relief of exam anxiety, with some requiring  practice and persistence.

Positive Self-Talk

Our thoughts have the ability to create positive or negative feelings about ourselves and situations. Anxiety is brought on by a person’s thoughts or expectations of how an event or experience is likely to turn out. A solution for dealing with this form of doubt is referred to as cognitive restructuring – what this process does is get the individual to examine their irrational, negative self-talk and replace it with positive self-talk.

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If you repeatedly tell yourself that you are not going to do well in an exam, your emotions will mirror this message resulting in feelings of anxiety because the message you are repeating to yourself is negative and self-defeating.

Of course just telling yourself that you are ready for an exam, but you haven’t opened a book, is not going to work. You need to have put the effort and time in so as to reinforce your positive self-talk; so that the message is true and you can believe in it.

Be Smart 

1. Be realistic about the amount of time you have.

It is easy to misjudge how much time you actually have available for studying or completing assignments. One way of finding out where you are wasting time or could be using your time more productively is by creating a master schedule:

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You literally map out every hour of every day (weekends included) and create a “big picture” of how you spend your time. You will then be able to see what time you have available for studying / working on assignments, where you are maybe wasting time and, where you could perhaps get more time from during particularly busy periods.

2. Pay attention in lectures

You don’t realise it but your lecturers drop hints and clues throughout their lectures about what is important and may be coming up in the next exam or assignment – if you pay close enough attention you will notice them:

  • writing notes / keywords on the whiteboard
  • repeating something over and over in a lesson, or over a period of time
  • literally saying the words: “This is important”
  • their tone of voice or gestures when address a particular concept or topic
  • assigning specific readings or textbook chapters

3. Take notes during lectures…and use them

Taking notes during lectures means you are actively engaging and thinking about what is being presented. By re-writing the notes after the class you will not only be reinforcing the information but you will also be able to organise it in an understandable manner; highlighting keywords or concepts that the lecturer paid special attention to.

4. Really study

Studying is not about reading your textbook and notes over and over again in the hopes that the information will magically transport itself to your memory, so that you can regurgitate it into your answer book during the exam.

Studying means knowing and understanding concepts and theories and how they relate and interact. At college level you will very seldom (if ever) be expected to merely memorise and regurgitate information; instead you are required to analyse, apply and organise the information you have learned into a response that adequately addresses the question that is asked.

Relaxation Techniques

The use of relaxation techniques is often recommended for the treatment of anxiety. There are a variety of techniques that can be used, we will be looking at two particular exercises:

  • Deep breathing
  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation

Deep breathing:

When you are relaxed you tend to take longer and deeper breaths versus when you are anxious your breathing becomes shallow and rapid. Deep breathing exercises reverses this, sending a message to your brain telling it to calm the body.

Deep breathing is a technique which becomes more effective with practice as your body will learn to read the signs that it needs to relax and calm down.

Technique:

  • You can be sitting or standing, just make sure you are relaxed (no tensed muscles) before you begin.
  • Make sure your hands are relaxed, your knees are soft, and your shoulders and jaw are relaxed.
  • Breathe in slowly through your nose – counting in your head for five beats as you breathe in, keep your shoulders down and allow your stomach to expand as you breathe in.
  • Hold your breath for 5 – 10 beats – you shouldn’t feel uncomfortable but you should be holding your breath for a little longer than you normally would.
  • Breathe out slowly and smoothly for 5 – 10 beats.
  • Repeat until you feel calm.

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Progressive Muscle Relaxation:

When a person is stressed or anxious they tend to tense their muscles resulting in feelings of stiffness and sometimes even pain in the back, shoulders and / or neck. Progressive muscle relaxation teaches you how to become aware of where you store your tension and to release it.

Technique:

  • Find a quiet, private room.
  • Lie down on your back, making sure you are comfortable. You may want to put a pillow behind your head. Take your shoes off and make sure you are wearing comfortable, loose fitting clothes.
  • You are now going to intentionally tense each of your muscle groups, and then relax them, starting with your feet and working your way up the body.

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  • Tense the muscles in your toes – curl them into your foot – take note of how this feels – hold the position for 5 seconds.
  • Relax your toes – notice how they feel different in the relaxed state.
  • Tense the muscles in your calves – hold it for 5 seconds – notice the feeling of tension in your leg.
  • Relax your calves – notice how the feeling of relaxation differs
  • Tense your knees – pull the knee caps upwards – hold the pose for 5 seconds – notice the feeling of tension in your knees.
  • Relax the knees – notice the feeling of relaxation.

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  • Repeat the pattern of tensing and releasing working upwards through your body: thighs, buttocks, pelvic floor, stomach, fingers, hands, forearms, upper arms, shoulders, neck, face.
  • No other muscle group should be tensed when focusing on a particular area.
  • Make sure that the room you are in is quiet and comfortable, so that you can concentrate on the feeling of tension and relaxation without any disturbances.
  • You may feel sleepy after (or you may even fall asleep during) this exercise.

Disclaimer:

The breathing and relaxation techniques provided in this post are for informational purposes only. Please consult your family doctor before beginning any new exercise or relaxation programme. This is particularly important if you have any pre-existing health conditions.


References:

Therapist Aid.com (n.d.). Relaxation Techniques. Retrieved from: http://www.therapistaid.com/therapy-worksheet/relaxation-techniques/anxiety/adults. [Accessed: 19 April 2016].

University of Alabama. (n.d.). Dealing with Test Anxiety. Retrieved from: http://www.ctl.ua.edu/CTLStudyAids/StudySkillsFlyers/TestPreparation/testanxiety.htm. [Accessed: 09 May 2016].

Watson, J. (2015). Avoiding Test Anxiety – Tip Sheet. Retrieved from: https://www.butte.edu/departments/cas/tipsheets/studystrategies/test_anxiety.html. [Accessed: 09 May 2016].

Weimer, M. (2016). Test Anxiety: Causes and Remedies. Retrieved from: http://www.facultyfocus.com/articles/teaching-professor-blog/test-anxiety-causes-and-remedies/ . [Accessed: 09 May 2016].

 

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Alcohol Abuse & Dependence: Signs & Symptoms

It is estimated that South Africans drink in excess of 5 billion litres of alcohol per annum; this equates to 9 – 10 litres of alcohol per person. 

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Alcohol use among the youth of South Africa is rife and increases with age for both males and females. The reasons for alcohol use and abuse range from a desire to fit in, peer pressure, boredom, poor home environment, the relative cheapness of alcohol, as well as it’s ease of access.

Alcohol Abuse vs. Alcohol Dependence

A distinction is made between alcohol abuse and alcohol dependence (or alcoholism). Alcohol abusers are thought to have some semblance of control over their alcohol intake and as such are able to set limits for themselves; this does not, however, mean that their drinking cannot or will not progress to more dangerous or dependent habits.

Alcohol dependence or alcoholism can develop gradually over time as a person’s alcohol tolerance increases. The risk of developing alcoholism is greater for those who partake in binge (a period of excessive or uncontrolled indulgence) drinking or who consume alcohol on a daily basis. Alternatively, alcohol dependence can develop relatively suddenly due to a genetic predisposition or family history of alcoholism, or stressful life events.

Signs & Symptoms of Alcohol Abuse 

Alcohol abuse refers to drinking habits that impact negatively on a person’s personal, interpersonal and work/school relationships and environments.

Signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse include, but are not limited to:

  • Drinking as a stress reliever – For many the use of alcohol to de-stress is the beginning of a downward spiral; the reason for this being that alcohol is a sedative, meaning that over time a person needs to consume more of it in order for it to have the same effect it initially had. 
  • Repeated neglect of responsibilities – Either because of drinking or the effects of drinking (i.e. suffering from a hang over) responsibilities at home, school or work are neglected e.g. poor work performance, poor or failing grades, absenteeism etc.
  • Alcohol use and poor judgement – Alcohol use impairs a person’s judgement and physical responses resulting in poor and dangerous decision making such as drinking and driving, drinking and having sex, mixing alcohol with medication, drinking in unsafe areas or neighbourhoods.
  • Drinking despite relationship problems – Continuing to drink despite the fact that your alcohol consumption is resulting in relationship problems at home, with friends and at work / school.
  • Legal problems due to drinking – Drinking patterns resulting in repeated legal problems such as: getting arrested for drunken driving, getting involved in drunken fights, domestic violence, drunk and disorderly conduct. 

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 Signs & Symptoms of Alcohol Dependence

In addition to the signs and symptoms of alcohol abuse, alcoholism includes three additional aspects: tolerance, physical dependence and withdrawal.

  • Tolerance – refers to the need for increased amounts of alcohol in order for it to have the same effect. Signs of increased tolerance include: consuming more alcohol than other people without show signs of intoxication; drinking more than you used to.
  • Lack of control – drinking more than you intended and / or for longer than you intended despite telling yourself or others that you wouldn’t.
  • Inability to stop – you have the desire to cut down or stop drinking alcohol but all efforts either to stop or to stay sober fail.
  • Pre-occupation with drinking – you spend increasing less time doing things that used to interest you as a result of your drinking; you spend an increasing amount of time drinking, thinking about drinking or recovering from the effects of drinking. 
  • Withdrawal – you experience withdrawal symptoms as the alcohol wears off and you sober up, e.g. shakiness, anxiety, sweating, trembling, vomiting, nausea, insomnia, irritability, depression, loss of appetite and headaches. Drinking in order to relieve or avoid these symptoms is a sign of alcohol dependence.


References:

Ideo. (2009). Laboratory Posters for Eli Lilly and Company: Inspiring scientists to be more patient-sensitive. Retrieved from: http://www.ideo.com/work/laboratory-posters [Accessed on: 22 April 2015].

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. (2015). Signs and Symptoms. Retrieved from: https://ncadd.org/learn-about-alcohol/signs-and-symptoms [Accessed on: 22 April 2015].

NYC Department of Healthy and Mental Hygiene. (2011). New Health Department Subway Poster Campaign Illustrates Dangers of Excessive Drinking. Retrieved from: http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/pr2011/pr032-11.shtml  [Accessed on: 22 April 2015].

Seggie, J. (2012). Alcohol and South Africa’s Youth. South African Medical Journal, 102(7), 587

How Marijuana Affects Your Body: An Infrographic

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Exposure to marijuana has physical, biological, mental, behavioural and social consequences. The decision whether or not to use marijuana will always be a personal one. 

Please refer to the Policies page of this blog for BMH’s Student Policy on the Possession, Use and Distribution of Illicit Substances (including marijuana).


Reference:

Anandani, A. (n.d.). How Marijuana Affects Your Body. Retrieved from: http://www.bestdrugrehabilitation.com/blog/infographics/marijuana-and-its-effects-on-the-body/ [Accessed on: 08 October 2014].

Marijuana: How to Stop Using

Giving up marijuana can be difficult, particularly for the chronic, daily user. In order to successfully stop using, you will need to educate yourself so that you’ll know what to expect and be prepared to deal with any issues should they arise.

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The Decision to Stop Using:

Without being personally motivated, the chances of you being able to successfully stop using marijuana are low. The decision to stop using has to be yours…not your partners or your parents.

Withdrawal symptoms are experienced when a person stops habitually using a drug – they occur because the person has developed a physical dependency on the drug. Daily use of marijuana can lead to physical dependency and as such marijuana users will experience withdrawal symptoms when they either stop or reduce their marijuana intake.

How Long?:

The time it will take to fully withdraw from marijuana is dependent on the individual and their history of use. The longer you’ve been using, the longer it will take to withdraw.

Following your last use of marijuana, you can expect to start experiencing withdrawal symptoms within a 1 – 3 days and they can last for anything from a week to a month.

Is it safe?:

Unlike other drugs, marijuana does not typically have any dangerous withdrawal symptoms – that is not to say that it is going to be easy and without discomfort. Withdrawal does not necessarily require any specialised treatment but it may be helpful to have the guidance of an addiction specialist so as to minimize the chances of relapse and equip you to cope with the withdrawal symptoms.

Withdrawal Symptoms:

You will most likely experience a number of different withdrawal symptoms when you stop using marijuana. The most common symptoms include:

  • headaches
  • drug cravings
  • anxiety
  • decreased appetite
  • irritability
  • insomnia
  • restlessness
  • nausea

Easing Withdrawal Symptoms:

Most of the withdrawal symptoms related to the withdrawal from marijuana use can be treated at home with every day, over-the-counter medication as well as a few changes in routine and habits.

  • Headaches can be treated with use of standard pain or headache medication
  • Nausea can be treated with over-the-counter stomach medication
  • Anxiety, restlessness, irritability and insomnia can be addressed by: decreasing your caffeine intake, increasing or starting a regular exercise routine and, learning basic breathing and relaxation exercises

Best Practice:

There is no “best way” to withdraw from marijuana. Past users do however advise that it is easier to gradually wean yourself off using the drug by reducing the amount used each day over a period of a couple of weeks. This method is often more successful than going “cold turkey” and stopping all use at once.

Those who are trying to quit are also advised to get rid of all of their marijuana and accompanying paraphernalia once they have decided to quit – this includes pipes, bongs etc; to surround themselves with non-users and; to try keep busy and active, this will help with cravings and temptation.

Although safety is not usually an issue when withdrawing from marijuana use, it is helpful to under go withdrawal with some form of addiction or medical support as this will decrease the chances of relapse and you will have the help you need should something go wrong.

Exposure to marijuana has physical, biological, mental, behavioural and social consequences. The decision whether or not to use marijuana will always be a personal one. 

Please refer to the Policies page of this blog for BMH’s Student Policy on the Possession, Use and Distribution of Illicit Substances (including marijuana).


Adapted from:

Motivation to stop smoking weed – Addictionblog.org and How to withdraw from marijuana – Addictionblog.org

Marijuana: Dependence and Addiction

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Physical Dependence vs. Addiction:

Physical dependence refers to when a drug user’s body normalizes / gets used to the presence of the drug; thus the user only “functions normally” when the drug is used and present in the body. Physical dependence is common with the chronic / prolonged use of marijuana. Withdrawal symptoms (physical symptoms when the dosage of a drug is seriously lowered or abruptly interrupted) can be experienced by those who are physically dependent on marijuana.

Addiction refers to behaviours which meet the criteria for substance dependence as per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM).  The addict’s mind does not accept abstinence (non-use) from the drug of choice and consciously forces the user to get more of the drug or even to increase the usage and amount of the drug so as to intensify the effect. Addictive behaviour is characterised by a pre-occupation, compulsive need to use a drug. Addiction is psychological in nature whereas physical dependence is a condition which can be overcome following a period of withdrawal.

Physical Dependence and Addiction to Marijuana:

Clinical evidence shows that marijuana withdrawal symptoms manifest following a period of dependency and that marijuana users qualify for diagnostic criteria of addiction.

Many find it hard to equate marijuana with addiction especially with its increasing use as a medicinal and recreational drug. However, the following is a list of the most common physical signs of marijuana dependence and addiction:

  • aggression
  • anger
  • anxiety
  • craving
  • depression
  • difficulty concentrating
  • difficulty falling asleep
  • difficulty sleeping
  • irritability
  • loss of appetite
  • mood changes
  • raise in temperature
  • restlessness
  • sweating

Exposure to marijuana has physical, biological, mental, behavioural and social consequences. The decision whether or not to use marijuana will always be a personal one. 

Please refer to the Policies page of this blog for BMH’s Student Policy on the Possession, Use and Distribution of Illicit Substances (including marijuana).


Adapted from: 

Physical Addiction to Marijuana – Addictionblog.org and Dependence on Marijuana – Addictionblog.org 

Marijuana: Use and Abuse

Marijuana/dagga/dope/weed/pot/MJ, whether for therapeutic, medical or recreational use, is an illegal drug in South Africa, containing the psychoactive chemical Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which acts on the cannabinoid receptors of the brain.

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How does marijuana work?:

When marijuana is smoked or ingested, THC is transported via the bloodstream to the brain. THC changes a person’s behaviour by binding, like a lock and key, to specific sites in the brain, called cannabinoid receptors. Most cannabinoid receptors are concentrated in areas of the brain associated with: thinking, memory, pleasure, co-ordination, concentration and sensory / time perception. THC acts on the body’s cannabinoid receptors which release dopamine, resulting in a feeling of euphoria or the “high” associated with the use of marijuana.

Can marijuana be abused?:

Yes, marijuana can be abused.

Substance or drug abuse is the habitual or routine use of a drug, e.g. marijuana, which results in the harming of the user. Using marijuana for non-therapeutic or non-medical effect is considered abuse.

Marijuana abuse is characterised by the use or consumption of marijuana in amounts or via methods which are harmful to the user. Marijuana is abused when it is:

  • smoked or ingested
  • taken for non-medical use but rather for the euphoric effect
  • taken in amounts that are harmful

Side effects of using marijuana:

Marijuana does not only affect the brain but also the heart, liver and lungs. Within minutes of inhaling marijuana smoke an individual’s:

  • heart rate can increase by 20 – 100%, thus increasing the risk of a heart attack.
  • the bronchial passages in the lungs relax and become enlarged, resulting in increased susceptibility to respiratory infections and lung diseases including cancer and emphysema.

Whether smoked or ingested marijuana use can result in:

  • weakened immune system
  • anxiety
  • panic attacks
  • paranoia
  • distorted perception
  • loss of co-ordination / motor control
  • short term memory loss
  • problems with learning
  • trouble with thinking and problem solving
  • increased risk of mental health issues and illnesses
  • acute psychosis

Exposure to marijuana has physical, biological, mental, behavioural and social consequences. The decision whether or not to use marijuana will always be a personal one. 

Please refer to the Policies page of this blog for BMH’s Student Policy on the Possession, Use and Distribution of Illicit Substances (including marijuana).


Adapted from:

How is Marijuana Abused; Smoking Marijuana and; How does Marijuana Work? – addictionblog.org