Exams are around the corner, and that means a stressful time for many students. But there are things you can do to ease your worries – and help is at hand, if you need it, through a recently introduced 24/7 phone counselling service as well as walk-in centres on campus.
Here are some useful tips from Dr Memory Muturiki, the director of the UCT Student Wellness Service (SWS), to help alleviate stress during this time.
Put a study plan in place and stick to your study timetable.
Get enough sleep in the weeks leading up to exams as well as the night before an exam. Seven to eight hours is advisable to ensure that you are well rested for the exam. “Your memory and cognitive senses work much better when you’ve had enough sleep. If your body is well rested, you will be more energised to face whatever you have to study, as well as the exams.”
Exercise regularly. “The extra oxygen circulating to your brain will make you feel sharper and more energised to study and work. Even a little exercise is better than nothing. Take time out to walk around the block, run up the steps to Memorial Hall or walk from upper to middle campus instead of taking the Jammie shuttle.”
Take care of yourself and eat healthy food. This will help you to feel alert and focused. Avoid the temptation to drink too much alcohol or take drugs. It is important for you to reach out if you need a support group. Student Wellness Services will be able to refer you to one that suits your needs.
If you feel you have a mild illness, such as a cold coming on, don’t wait until it gets worse. Consult a nurse at the Student Wellness Centre, or visit the walk-in centres, and get the medication you need. The quicker you treat the mild symptoms, the faster you will recover.
If you’re on medication for any condition, do not stop taking it. Speak to your doctor if you are worried about side effects, such as drowsiness, but it is recommended that you continue with your treatment.
If you notice friends or classmates who are battling to cope or are ill, try refraining from giving medical advice and rather suggest going to a doctor, the SWS clinic or one of the walk-in service points, or accompany them to one.
Identify what’s triggering your stress. If you have financial concerns, seek help from the Finance office. If family life and pressures are worrying you, get help from the SWS social worker or counsellors to help you through your situation. It’s normal to have a certain level of stress during exam time. But when it is overwhelming and is affecting your studies, you should seek professional help.
“If you feel depressed or anxious and constantly worried about everything in exams and beyond, my advice is to talk to somebody, do it quickly and get help,” says Muturiki.
“Even if you don’t think it’s serious, itʼs worth talking to someone.”
“It is important to remember that it is not the end of the world to fail an exam. There is a way out. You will be able to work through it.”
Ways to get help
Phone UCT’s telephonic counselling service, the South African Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) UCT Student Careline toll-free number, at 0800 24 25 26. Students can also send an SMS to 31393 and a counsellor will call back. The call service is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Trained counsellors will be on the line. UCT students can phone from wherever they are, on and off campus, and from anywhere in the country, during term times as well as holidays.
SWS has set up a few walk-in service points on upper and middle campus, and on the Hiddingh and Medical campuses. They are open between 08:30 and 16:30 from Mondays to Thursdays. At the Steve Biko building, students are able to take a tear-off slip with an available time slot, and then come back at the allotted time. At the other locations, no appointments are required but students must be prepared to wait their turn.
If you need to be seen at the main clinic, you can book an appointment at the Student Wellness Service, in the Ivan Toms Building at 28 Rhodes Avenue in Mowbray.
Practical after-hours help is also at hand for students living in residences on campus. The Department of Student Affairs (DSA) Crisis Intervention Service, popularly known as the night-nurse service, is available to help students in residences who may face a mental-health crisis after hours. This can be accessed by contacting Campus Protection Services (CPS) on 021 650 2222.
ER24 Emergency is on standby for the university for any emergency at any time, and is able to dispatch an ambulance for you if necessary.
If you’re off campus, the UCT Student Careline could be your first port of call. Phone emergency services if necessary and find help at a hospital in an emergency.
“It is important to remember that it is not the end of the world to fail an exam,” says Muturiki.
“There is a way out. You will be able to work through it.
“A counsellor can help guide you with your immediate worries and career advisers will be able to help longer-term. Always remember to approach your faculty for academic assistance.”