How To Manage Psychological Rumination In Exam Preparation

How to manage psychological rumination in exam preparation

During the student stage or when preparing for an opposition, as the exam dates approach, it is usually common for nerves to surface, gradually increase and do not stop until the last exam has been taken or even, in many cases, until the grades have been published.

The most common symptoms in this type of preparations are those of anxiety, which can be shown in various ways, among which psychological rumination is worth highlighting; characterized by obsessive thoughts or recurring images that the student experiences as uncontrollable and intrusive, causing discomfort and difficulty concentrating on what they are studying.

If anxiety and rumination persist for a long time, it can cause stress and, consequently, physical and mental exhaustion.

Therefore, this article will show some tips to try manage those ruminative thoughts and be able to carry out a productive study in preparation for the exams

What is psychological rumination during studying for exams?

Psychological rumination is made up of a cluster of obsessive thoughts that occur in the mind over and over again introducing the person into a constant loop of negative ideas that make it difficult for the person to concentrate on the activity they are trying to do.

Among these activities we find studying for an exam, a type of preparation that is often hindered by ruminative thoughts.

These types of intrusive thoughts are very common among students and can be presented in different ways:

All this accumulation of thoughts, and many others, can arise in the minds of students so that one negative thought leads to another which is also negative in nature, then the next… and so on, the student entering a vicious circle of thoughts that sabotage their concentration and, therefore, their quality of study.

If you do not learn to control these types of mental processes, the student could feel without enough motivation to face the tests that will await him in the near future and, with this, what is known in social psychology as a “negative self-fulfilling prophecy” is fulfilled.

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It consists of a cognitive bias that means that if someone repeatedly thinks that they are going to fail the exam, they will feel more discouraged when it comes to studying, they will not try as hard as they would if they felt motivated and, therefore, they may fail. the exam and your initial idea becomes a reality.

Ruminative thoughts before an exam

Techniques to manage ruminative thoughts before an exam

Below are different psychological techniques that have proven effective both with ruminative or obsessive thoughts and with compulsive behaviors.

1. Exposure to the exam situation

Taking a mock exam could help detect those negative thoughts that emerge in the moments before it is time to take the exam and also try to stay exposed to those feelings of anxiety caused by the nerves generated by exams.

It would be advisable to carry out this practice as many times as necessary, until the nerves and psychological rumination subside.

2. Massive practice of a situation that is most similar to the exam

When facing an exam has been successfully carried out on several occasions without excessive obsessive thoughts surfacing and nerves are reasonably controlled, the student will find himself with greater self-confidence to face the real exam.

Besides, The practice of mock exams is of great help to review and consolidate the studied syllabus especially when the exam will be multiple choice, in which case it is very important to train yourself to detect erroneous answers, not to mention the possibility of repeating a question in the final exam that has been asked during the simulations.

3. Reinterpret ruminations

Realistically reason those obsessive thoughts, trying to eliminate the catastrophism that accompanies them; all this making an adequate estimate of the probabilities of real damage that those thoughts would produce; so the maximization of the negative part that exists in them could be verified.

4. Exposure exercises in imagination

In this case, the technique consists of imagine in the moments before and during the exam, so that it helps the student get used to the feared situation and stops causing so much anxiety. It can be a good complement to the actual exhibition.

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5. Techniques from Mindfulness

The fundamental objectives of practicing Mindfulness are the following:

6. Progressive muscle relaxation

When nerves prior to the exam and obsessive thoughts cause great discomfort, it could be of great help to perform relaxation exercises that consist of tensing the muscles for a few seconds and then relaxing them for the same amount, so that with practice you learn to produce that relaxation response to the situation. events and thoughts that cause tension. It is advisable to divide muscle tension/relaxation exercises by muscle groups

This technique has also proven effective against insomnia. Therefore, it can be used at times when students have difficulty sleeping during the days before an exam.

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7. From Behavioral Activation (CA)

This type of psychological therapy seeks to ensure that people do not remain ‘engaged’ in their ruminative thoughts; considering thoughts as a behavior and, consequently, taking into account that it is associated with certain situations with their respective events that precede those thoughts and consequences in the form of moods.

To understand the consequences of psychological rumination, an exercise known as the ‘2-minute rule’ is used, which consists of looking for a solution to the problem during that time and, if you don’t find it, look for an alternative. This can help you become aware of the negative consequences that the rumination process brings with it.

Another alternative to this therapy is the exercise of transforming rumination into a problem-solving process trying to identify the problem that sets off the rumination and think of ways to solve it.

An exercise proposed by this therapy that can be of great help consists of that, when ruminative thoughts begin, the person directs their attention to what surrounds them focusing on what he is hearing, what he can see and the sensations that all of this provokes in him.

One way to avoid rumination and be productive can be to focus on the task at hand. In the case of a student, when it is difficult for him to concentrate, it could be of great help to start making summaries and concept maps, focusing fully on what he writes and how he structures it.

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Stimulus control and good study habits

In addition to the exercises and techniques previously proposed, It is very important to find the ideal place where you can carry out an optimal study and carry out a lifestyle that allows for a productive and stable study routine over time.

The first thing of all is to carry out a good planning of the material that is going to be studied in terms of the subdivision by topics or subjects that are going to be addressed each day and the organization of the study schedules will be the basis of good preparation for a test.

The longer a study schedule remains stable, the more likely it is to become routine and, therefore, less effort is required to carry out the study. Which will make it easier for ruminative thoughts to disappear.

Secondly, find a comfortable place without distractions to study. It doesn’t matter if you study in a library or at home, and even if you mix both places, that is something very personal. What is really important is that we choose a place where we feel we can concentrate

Having study buddies could be helpful in encouraging each other, as long as it doesn’t become a major distraction for both of you. It would be useful to have someone to chat with during the breaks that usually occur when studying and even to ask each other questions about the subject being studied.

Moving the mobile device away and out of sight avoids multiple distractions while studying It is also not advisable to abstain from it for a long time if it is difficult or if you are waiting for an important call, as this could cause anxiety and, consequently, greater distraction than if you had your cell phone within reach. Therefore, it would be advisable to establish breaks every few minutes of studying carried out to be able to look at the mobile phone.

Another fundamental aspect is sleep and good nutrition If they are not carried out correctly, it is likely that the student will be tired and not want to start studying. Furthermore, it is widely demonstrated that during sleep what was studied the previous day is consolidated in memory; Not to mention the benefits provided by some foods such as salmon or walnuts, which are rich in omega 3 and help prevent cognitive decline.

Allowing yourself one day of total disconnection a week is usually highly recommended to recharge your batteries after a week of extensive effort and thus resume the following week with energy. This would also help keep a clear mind and thus avoid rumination.