How to deal with psychological rumination in exam preparation

At the student stage or in preparation for an opposition, as the exam dates approach, it is usually common for the nerves to surface, gradually increase and keep stopping until the last exam has been completed. carried out or even, in many cases, until the notes were published.

The most frequent symptoms in this type of preparation are those of anxiety, which can manifest in various ways, including ruminating psychologically; characterized by obsessive thoughts or recurring images that the student experiences as uncontrollable and intrusive, causing discomfort and difficulty concentrating on what is being studied.

If anxiety and rumination persist for a long time, it can lead to stress and therefore physical and mental exhaustion.

Therefore, this article will show you some tips to try manage these ruminative thoughts and be able to conduct a productive study in preparation for exams.

    What are psychological ruminations during the study of examinations?

    Psychological rumination consists of a group of obsessive thoughts that keep coming back to the mind, putting the person in a constant loop of ideas of a negative nature that prevent the person from concentrating on the activity that they are trying to perform.

    Among these activities is study for examination, a type of preparation that is often hampered by the thoughts of ruminants.

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

    • Obsessed with a subject that is more difficult for him to learn than he expected.
    • Consider that the study routine is unproductive.
    • Continually think that you will fail the exam.
    • Think of it as an absolute failure on the exam.
    • Imagine parents and loved ones who are disappointed if you don’t approve.
    • Believe that the world will come upon him if he does not pass the test.
    • Anxiety in imagining how difficult it will be to have to study the same subject again the following year or to have to re-prepare the subject of the opposition.
    • Feeling that you are wasting your time and that you should throw in the towel.

    All this accumulation of thoughts, and many more, can come to the minds of students so that one negative thought leads to another which is also negative in nature, then on to the next … and so on, putting the student into a vicious cycle of thoughts that sabotage his concentration and, therefore, his quality of study.

    If you are not learning to control this type of mental process, the student may feel demotivated enough to face the tests that they will provide it in the near future and thus fulfill what is called in social psychology the “negative self-fulfilling prophecy”.

    This is a cognitive bias which means that if someone repeatedly thinks that they will fail the exam, they will feel more discouraged during their studies, they will not put in as much effort as if they were felt motivated, and so it is possible that the exam failed and your initial idea will come true.

      Techniques for dealing with ruminative thoughts before an exam

      Below are different psychological techniques that have been shown to be effective for ruminative or obsessive thoughts and compulsive behaviors.

      1. Exposure to the examination situation

      Performing a review exercise could help detect those negative thoughts that arise in the moments leading up to the exam and also try to stay exposed to those nervous feelings of anxiety that exams generate.

      This practice should be carried out as many times as necessary, until the nerves and psychological ruminations subside.

        2. Massive practice of a situation closer to the examination

        When the confrontation with an exam has been carried out successfully several times without the haunting thoughts spilling out and the nerves being reasonably controlled, the student will find himself more confident to face the exam itself.

        Outraged, the practice of exam exercises is very useful to revise and consolidate the studied program, especially when the exam will be test type, in which case it is very important to practice detecting incorrect answers, not to mention the possibility of repeating certain questions on the final exam of those asked during the exercises .

        3. Reinterpret ruminations

        Reasoning Realistically These Obsessive Thoughts, trying to eliminate the catastrophism that accompanies them; all this while making an adequate estimate of the probabilities of real harm that this would produce thoughts; so you can check the maximization of the negative part that is there.

        4. Imagination exhibition exercises

        In this case, the technique consists of imagine yourself in the moments before and during the execution of the exam, so that it helps to accustom the student to the dreaded situation and to stop causing so much anxiety. It can be a good addition to the exhibition itself.

        5. Mindfulness techniques

        The main goals of practicing mindfulness are:

        • That the person learn to control his attention and be able to redirect it where he wants
        • Maintain a different relationship with those ruminant thoughts that torment you, being able to observe them from a distance.
        • Give up attempts to forcefully combat those negative thoughts that arise when you find yourself in this vicious cycle of the imagination.

        6. Progressive muscle relaxation

        When the nerves before the exam and obsessive thoughts cause high discomfort, it can be very useful to perform relaxation exercises which involve tense the muscles for a few seconds and then relax them as well, so that with the practice, you would learn how to produce this relaxation response. events and thoughts that produce tension. Muscle tension / relaxation exercises should be divided into muscle groups.

        This technique has also been shown to be effective against insomnia. Therefore, it can be used in times when students have difficulty sleeping in the days leading up to an exam.

          7. Behavioral activation (AC)

          This type of psychological therapy seeks to prevent people from being “masked” in their ruminative thoughts; consider thoughts as behavior and, therefore, take into account that it is associated with certain situations with their respective events that precede those thoughts and their consequences in the form of moods.

          To learn about the consequences of psychological rumination, we use an exercise known as the “2 minute rule” which involves looking for a solution to the problem during this time and, if you cannot find it, looking for an alternative. It can help you become aware of the negative consequences of the thought process.

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

          One exercise offered by this therapy that can be of great help is to that when the thoughts of the ruminant begin, the person turns his attention to his surroundings, focusing on what you are listening to, what you can see and what it all evokes in you.

          One way to avoid ruminating and being productive may be to focus on the task at hand. In the case of a student, when it is difficult for them to concentrate, it can be very helpful to start doing summaries and concept maps, focusing fully on what they are writing and how they are structuring it.

            Stimulus control and good study habits

            In addition to the exercises and techniques suggested above, it is very important to find the ideal place where you can achieve an optimal study and lead a lifestyle that allows for a productive and stable study routine over time.

            It is first of all a question of carrying out a good planning of the subject which will be studied until the subdivision by subjects or subjects which will be approached each day and the organization of the study schedules will be the basis of a good preparation for an exam.

            The more stable a study program, the more likely it is to become a routine and, therefore, less effort is involved in carrying out the study. This will facilitate the disappearance of thoughts of ruminants.

            Second, find a comfortable, distraction-free place to study. It doesn’t matter if you study in a library or at home, and even though the two places are intertwined, it’s very personal. What is really relevant is that we choose a place where we feel we can focus.

            Having classmates could be helpful in order to be able to encourage each other, as long as it doesn’t constitute a greater distraction for both of them. It would help to have someone to talk to during the breaks that are usually taken when you are studying and even to wonder about the topic you are studying.

            Keeping your mobile device out of sight and out of sight prevents multiple distractions while studying. It is also not advisable to abstain for a long time if it is difficult or if you are expecting an important call, as this could cause anxiety and, therefore, more distraction than if you had your cell phone handy. Therefore, it would be advisable to take a break every minute of study done in order to take a look at the mobile.

            Another key aspect is sleep and good nutrition. If they are not done correctly, the student is likely to be tired and unwilling to start studying. In addition, it is widely demonstrated that during sleep what has been studied the day before is consolidated in memory; not to mention the benefits that certain foods provide such as salmon or walnuts, which are rich in omega 3 and help prevent cognitive impairment.

            Allowing yourself one day of total disconnection per week is generally strongly recommended to recharge your batteries after a week of heavy efforts and resume the following week with energy. It would also help to keep the mind clear and thus avoid brooding.

            Bibliographical references

            • Fonseca, E. (2021). Manual of psychological treatments. Adults. Madrid: Pyramid.
            • Llanxa, C. and Carrasco, MA (2003). Intervention in examination anxiety, obsessions and compulsions contained in obsessive-compulsive personality disorder. Psychological action, 2 (3): p. 173-190.
            • Morales, JF (2007). Social psychology. Madrid: McGraw-Hill.
            • Morejon, A. (2019). Manual of psychotherapies. Theory and technique. Barcelona: Herder.
            • Prosper-Garcia, O. et al. (2013). Intelligence for food, food for intelligence. Mental Health, 36: p. 101-107.

            Leave a Comment