How to Study without Stress… Yes!

I am in the middle of my exam period of the first semester of my first year in the study of dentistry. I have been pondering on how to study without stress and maintain a healthy lifestyle, just like in the days when I do not have exams going on.

I always keep caring for myself during the exam period at University; it does not make any sense to me to stop with everything I am normally doing and only focus on studying and eating TV dinners as I see many of my fellow students do.

I make sure I have enough food to nourish my body, I still cook meals every day, I make sure I wash my clothes, go for a walk to clear my head and keep my body fit, and in the evenings I do not study so as to have some quiet time to spend with myself.

So I thought I was taking care of myself pretty well, and I was, but there was something that didn’t feel quite as smooth in my life around exam times as it had when I wasn’t studying for my exams, and that was the stress.

The day before my first dentistry exam my stomach started to ache and I felt tense in my back as well as an overall feeling of stress and anxiety. I noticed a thought of “I only have to sit this stress pain out until tomorrow, after my exam.” This made me stop as this did not make sense to me anymore. Why was I accepting stress as normal and something to sit out? And why couldn’t I study without stress?

“Time to look into this a little deeper”, I thought. How could I still feel so much stress in my body whilst I was studying – all the while knowing it was not necessary and healthy?

  • Could it be that I actually enjoyed the excitement and stress of study as a form of thrill?
  • Could it be that I liked doing exams only because I could get noticed for having great test results? And to get these outstanding results I had to go all crazy on studying?
  • Could it be that I felt good if I could answer as much as possible to make me feel smart? And to be recognised by the professor? And it would be even better when I said at the beginning of the exam: “Oh, I am not sure I can do it” and then get the highest results of the class… (it sounds quite desperate, I know).
  • And… could it be that it was a distraction from living a simple and joyful life whilst studying?

I realised I still had quite an investment in getting excellent university exam results. Under my indifferent attitude there was still an arrogance of being able to study better than anybody else and a need to be recognised/rewarded for that by good results.

I wondered why I had this need to be recognised by the professor and fellow University students. I remember that I learned to study like this at secondary school. As I was a bit shy, quiet and did not say very much at school, the only way I could get recognition and attention from the teacher was to be very good at school.

I have learned in the last couple of years, with the support of the workshops, presentations and courses held by Serge Benhayon and Universal Medicine, that there is so much more to me, that there is a beauty inside me and that I deserve to be myself and bring that beauty to the world. With that I feel I do not need the recognition and approval anymore, and that all I truly want is love – from myself, for myself and from others. Love for who I am, not what I do or the great marks or exam results I could get.

I could feel that I do not need the teacher’s approval anymore as I did when I was young and did not know any better than doing it that way.

Another thing that I realised was that I am wanting to study to become a dentist to serve humanity; to bring my care, attention, love and eye for detail to the people I am going to treat in my profession (and enjoy this process.) And with that, yes, I have to study and do exams, but they are just part of the system we have created to teach people to be a dentist. No big deal, not to get excited, frustrated or stressed about, but just a part of the program that I have to do.

I became aware of the fact that getting all stressed about the exams is just a distraction from actually doing what needs to be done… to study in this case.

After realising all of that it was easier to study, and without stress. I just did what needed to be done: studying, doing the exam (and being present with myself during the exam) and around that, caring for myself as I always do.

The very cool thing was that when my second dentistry exam came around, the day before I did not have cramps in my stomach or tension in my back and didn’t feel stressed when I was studying. Also, after the exam I did not feel tired.

This time I felt vital and ready to go on with the day and to get studying for the next exam. To me this is a miracle! The stress associated with studying always felt like something that came over me, now I know how to make the choices and how to study without stress, yes!

Inspired by Serge Benhayon and the work of Universal Medicine.

By Lieke van Haastrecht, Student Dentistry, Age 23, Ghent, Belgium

571 thoughts on “How to Study without Stress… Yes!

  1. This is such an invaluable sharing. I really wonder what the true purpose of exam is. I recently had to teach an intensive 2-week course to a group of university students to prepare them for a specific exam – where they had to do 200 multiple choice questions within 2 hours and many students find it impossible to even read all the questions. Why the need for this time pressure, and inevitable stress? Does it have any relevance to the depth of understanding of the subject they study? No wonder most of them come out exhausted. What are we trying to produce out of this system? Lifeless robots with a short fuse who have no real understanding or skills whatsoever that they can apply to real life and self-destruct at an encounter with a slightest system failure, but capable of recalling and processing data quickly? I mean, what for?

    1. Great questions Fumiyo I don’t think that time pressure does add to the understanding of an subject, possibly it forces people to recall a lot of information quickly but really having an in depth understanding of the topic is more worked against in this way I suppose. I see around me many students being exhausted at the end of the exams and getting by on sugary energy drinks, cookies etc during the exams. I always wonder is this how we want our students to pass an exam?

  2. I learn from this blog a lot and I trust everyone does. What stood out really was: that we can use stress or overwhelm in order to not do what we need to do. I have felt that very often in my study and have used that a lot a lot. So it is very good to admit that stress is actually something we take on, and never beneficial or efficient.

    1. Yes there are so many ways we can avoid just doing something and even though we might think we rebel against the system by not studying actually we ourselves are the ones that have to deal with that.
      Then on your amazing last sentence… it is true, stress is often said to be ‘ok’ because it makes us more productive, one day without stress and one day with and I know which one is more productive – the one without stress because I then feel more clear in my head and body and am much more productive than when the stress is running through my body!

  3. Isn’t it interesting how this need for recognition can show up, you think you have it nailed and then one small incidence occurs and there it is again still hiding somewhere underneath. Appreciating oneself really is the key here, when we drop the ball on appreciating ourselves and feeling our innate beauty, all we are left with is the need to be recognized from the outside. We bereft ourselves of our own preciousness, by disconnecting from it.

    1. It is true once we stop appreciating and valuing ourselves we are desperate for it to come from someone or something outside of us. The more we look the worse it get’s. It actually happened to me today and I could catch myself and understand that no matter how much the outside would confirm me, I would only feel settled when I would start appreciating myself again.

  4. These are needs at exam time I am sure most relate to but this blog blows it all out of the water in a very common sense, honest way. Yes of course there is a greater intention about serving others in why we get qualifications and we all know the best exam results do not necessarily make the wisest and most compassionate practitioners. But just on the level Lieke has shared of not getting stressed at exam time, this blog is worthy of getting in the year 10 science, social studies and humanities curricula at high school!

    1. Yes Simon absolutely, why not teach that there is a way of doing exams without stress to the students of the University we are teaching on?

  5. When we choose stress we are putting our bodies into total disregard and yet stress is considered normal- some even say that some stress helps us do better with things in our lives. As you have shown, Lieke, truly caring for our bodies without stress make the whole exam process so much more loving and we can feel revitalised instead of drained at the end of the process.

    1. So true Anne, I do not agree that stress makes us do things better, when I am stressed I feel totally fractured and have to work double as hard to get something done and stay focussed than when I am without stress. I think it is about claiming that we are worth a life without stress and setting the standard for life much higher by doing this. Because I think in the exhausted state many people are living in at the moment indeed stress is the thing that makes people able to do something better or faster but if we would deeply care about and for ourselves so we are not exhausted, we would be more productive without than with stress.

  6. It is crazy how studying seems to go hand in hand with disregard. I know when I was studying and living in student accommodation sleep was not always easy to get as there was always parties and noise going on, often the fire alarm would go off in the middle of the night because of food getting burnt when drunk students decided to cook something in the middle of the night, it happened so often in the end I just used to wear earplugs and sleep through the fire alarm.

    1. Wow that sounds quite extreme but I can totally relate – had some of those experiences too! What stands out for me is that the student life is so full of disregard and strange things like you shared but that this is actually the time where we are setting the foundation for the rest of our lives. So in what energy are we doing this…

  7. ‘I became aware of the fact that getting all stressed about the exams is just a distraction from actually doing what needs to be done…’ this I can relate to, although I am not studying but often relate to going into stress especially with deadlines for work etc. It is so true Lieke what you’ve shared. Also when we choose to be all stressed out, we get less done and the quality is not so great. So, choosing stress really is a way I am avoiding getting the work that needs to be done with quality. When I feel stress coming on, I can stop and reconnect back to myself and let it go. It’s amazing, how much easier it is to work fast, efficient and with quality when we connect to ourselves and the energy that is here to support us instead of choosing an energy that works against our natural flow and abilities.

  8. Exams can be such a stressful time, as you describe – for students and often parents alike, if they get caught up in the angst of it all. I love how you comment that you ” became aware of the fact that getting all stressed about the exams is just a distraction from actually doing what needs to be done… to study in this case.” Staying in the present, focussing on what needs to be done, one thing at a tme, can certainly reduce the stress levels.

  9. Discovering the stress you felt Lieke was not because you had an exam, but because you had a false expectation of what you needed to achieve through that exam is huge. You have exposed the fact that an exam in itself, is not the stressful part but a self-imposed part we create for ourselves.

    1. Agree Jenny, it is massive and Lieke should be travelling around the world, visiting universities teaching this. It is a game changer.

      1. Absolutely Sarah, it would not be the whole answer to eliminating exam/university stress, but would go a long way towards supporting people to do their best, but not end up so exhausted and strung out. Making our systems about people first is key to the change being more supportive for all.

      2. Yes making it about people first is key Jenny. It is now about the results and what we produce so to speak instead of it yes being about what we are learning but also how we are feeling in this whole process. It is important to teach that we have to do it in a way that takes care of ourselves at the same time.

      3. Absolutely, we are seeing the shocking result of living without respect for ourselves in everything we do, which seems particularly evident within our education systems throughout the world. Making our systems about people allows us to re-establish true self-care, above and beyond passing any exam or meeting any deadline.

      4. Yes, I notice too that it is much more present in the education system. I observed that at workplaces there is often more connection and understanding than is at the university. Which is of course not at all workplaces but the purpose of workplaces is often something that helps making it about people and it is more humane. Yet as you say systems are easily to become only about results and not about how people have come to that result, and the last one is actually one very important result we should be looking at. How is that person feeling after the exam etc.

  10. I love how you stopped and questioned the stress factor that you were in and then realised how very much you could bring it back to yourself and thus had the power to change it. This is true psychology to me. And how very cool to have this revelation: “I became aware of the fact that getting all stressed about the exams is just a distraction from actually doing what needs to be done… to study in this case.”

  11. Whenever I have given too much to something whether that is for an exam, to a relationship or work I got exhausted. This has clearly shown me that it is only when I am living and honouring myself that I feel energised and full of vitality and then I am in a place to deal with whatever is in front of me with clarity and love.

    1. Absolutely Caroline, there is a way of living from which we can know how much we need to do, no more and no less. Either one is otherwise in one way or the other exhausting.

  12. The first test I sat, after returning to uni this year, I burst into tears after. I was stressed to the max and had completely abandoned myself to it all. I knew this had to change. I knew this wasn’t me. So over the last year I have been committed to staying with myself more deeply as I study, as I prepare, and as I sit to do the test. Gradually I have reacted less and less to sitting tests and instead have embraced the opportunity they offer, and that is to be able to do it all another way, a loving way, with all of me. This is powerful on so many levels and was in fact what I was shying away from embracing by going into anxiety and stress, but no more!

    1. I know the feeling Robyn of wanting to burst out in tears after an exam as it is really a horrible feeling to abandon ourselves just for a couple of numbers on a paper at the end of it saying we did well or not. It is very beautiful to read how you turned this around for yourself. To hold this at an exam can be challenging, because so many people are choosing stress that we can feel uncomfortable being so comfortable with it all.

  13. I love the question you ask of yourself Lieke – you get an A+ from me. You go underneath the surface of this stress to show that it’s actually a hit we indulge in just like any stimulant, sugar or coffee. This is huge if we are willing to look at our day and the way we are in our interactions with others.

    1. Thank you Joseph, I think we should be giving many people an A+ simply for the amazing person they are, the love they express and the commitment they have for instance!
      I think stress is indeed just as much a stimulant as coffee is, many people say they are more productive when they are a little stressed but I think this is because many people are already very tired or even exhausted so that is when the stress is seen as helpful but when we would be vital at the start this would not be the case.

  14. I left school before my exams started, I found even the concept of them overwhelming. I think that it is great you are getting into the details of why and what is supporting you or supporting you in this time. Stress is just as damaging as food or drinks, its great that you are recognizing this and putting some thing into place.

  15. After reading this I feel that Lieke van Haastrecht should be running 101 classes in self care at university as a required subject… imagine the difference to people lifes when they graduated with such an enhanced awareness of self-care and all it brings

  16. When things get busier, and you are asked to do more, that is the point that you step UP the other parts of your life as well…. making sure there is the regular exercise, eating well, getting to sleep on time, taking some time to nurture yourself. Then the new level of activity required is supported and becomes sustainable.

  17. What a refreshing insight about studying and stress Lieke. Your wonderful description is so inspiring it made it easier for me to also chose to let go of stress before an examen. Thank you for not holding back and sharing what you have discover so far.

  18. This is brilliant. That need for recognition is so insidious and I know I sometimes allow it to push me into activities in a way that is not harmonious to my body and it usually translates itself as tension and hardening. We may appear to be doing exactly the same thing, yet our true intention sets apart how we experience it.

  19. Feeling more deeply into the patterns created out of a need to be recognised or accepted is a great realisation Lieke, the more we are willing to see and feel the more awareness we have of what we take on that is not true that puts our body into a hardness and tension that makes everything an unnecessary struggle.

  20. It is truly beautiful and extraordinarily rare to come to a place in life let alone study where you realize that you do not need to push yourself for recognition and acceptance knowing and connecting to there being a beauty within that both you and world deserve to experience…. and instead move through life with that as your equal motivation and inspiration.

  21. We tend to talk about these stressful exams as if the are an anomaly out of keeping with our everyday life. But is that true? Or are these just an intense dose of a stress roller coaster we are actually always on in truth? Going to work, talking with our partner, relative or friend, are we not always a little bit stressed then? If this is the case then we are all in great need of stopping and examining the way we are being just as you have done so beautifully here Lieke.

    1. Great point Joseph, I think we see many parts of our life as little exams, even speaking with a friend or colleague can feel that way. As long as we are not fully settled in ourselves everything in life feels like a test of some sort to be accepted until we accept ourselves as we are.

  22. Living life in search for constant recognition not only places a stress in our physicality as we need to harden our bodies but also stops us from being transparent creating a lack of intimacy in all our relationships.

  23. I think it’s great Lieke how you said that it used to feel like stress was something that ‘came over you’ but now you can see that you actually have another choice and can study in a different way, one that is without the stress, not because something outside of you has changed but the way that you are approaching the exams and work has.

    1. Yes I agree Fiona. To be not so caught up in stress it is vital to be aware of the energy that comes with most studies, especially university ones, which is very much geared on having to do very well, and looks at us as ‘not knowing’ and having to gain all knowledge – not acknowledging we are amazing at the start. I found being aware of this energy that comes with study is key to not get absorbed in it and super stressed and be dragged down with negative thoughts of ‘being a failure’ or ‘not being able to do it’ (which happened to me not long ago) So yes, it is all about how we approach our studies and not pursue about changing the study itself.

  24. This is such a timely read for me. I have been going through a patch of extreme busy-ness right now, and while I know I am handling it far better than I used to, your sharing presents me with a few questions – am I getting off on being ‘busy’, juggling things so to speak? Has ‘doing’ taken over ‘being? – Because I know how I have been eating probably more than my body needs and in my honesty something actually feels amiss.

  25. Amazing Lieke. It is so interesting to observe how our search for love through approval, recognition and acceptance plays out through our lives in many different and subtle ways, leaving our bodies feeling less than great. What is so inspiring about what you have shared is the willingness to be honest about how you are feeling and what you were accepting in that moment, allowing you to go deeper to expose what was not you, what was not serving and supporting you to be yourself. As such you simply let it go; as a result bringing more of you to life was naturally present. A great lesson for us all. Through self-honest we come to know the truth of who we are and how we can truly live, and as you have shown us this is what true alchemy is about.

    1. Yes true Carola, very interesting and I am more and more becoming aware that love has nothing to do with recognition or acceptance. Love just holds you, but it does not hold you more loving for doing something great or hold you less when you are doing something that is less than loving. This something I am learning to feel more and more in life which makes it simpler to just be myself and appreciate that.

  26. If I get stressed about something is actually tends to slow me down – my thinking becomes less clear or if I do speed up it’s in a disharmonious way that is not sustainable and leaves me feeling racy and unsettled and drained – it certainly doesn’t lead to quality learning! Bringing more focus to what I’m doing, and importantly the way in which I’m approaching it, really helps me to be truly connected with what I’m doing or learning.

    1. Yes, I have found that too Fiona. I can’t think as clearly anymore when I am stressed and everything feels wrong and weird. Yet I know stress is often celebrated as the thing that makes people perform better! I am not so sure about that though! 🙂

  27. One of the things I love about Universal Medicine is that it can inspire you to look beyond what is being presented, look at what you may be bringing to a situation, it reminds you of the bigger picture (that we are love first and foremost and here to serve humanity), and from there everything can fall into perspective, simplicity, joy, harmony and order. This blog, that I love that you have written, is a stunning example of how it can work.

  28. Getting an understanding of why we do what we do is so important for breaking the pattern. Great insight Lieke and great freedom for anyone ready to consider this as a life skill not just how to get through exams.

  29. Lieke this is a great support and very inspiring for anyone studying, to know we have a choice even in these stressful times makes life more simple and joyful.

  30. Beautiful to read how you realised that you didn’t need the approval of another, and getting stressed was not necessary, when we don’t put expectations on ourself we don’t feel exhausted either.

  31. It’s interesting that often in difficult or stressful moments the first thing we drop is our daily rhythm and the stuff that supports us, which essentially leaves us baseless and not so able to cope with what is in front of us. I know for me when life is tough, it’s the little things like making sure my washing is done and not skipping corners with eating etc that help keep me steady.

  32. You have shared great insight Lieke into the way we choose to become stressed and overwhelmed as a distraction from staying present in the moment. Without having a quality of connection with ourselves we lose true focus and end up feeling drained.

  33. The body’s communication is always from truth but we can undermine this truth by over-riding its messages and thinking the ‘head’ knows best. Your honesty and openness to going deeper and exposing the attention seeking spirit uncovered some illusions that held no truth. What a beautiful confirmation of the choice you made to enquiry more deeply Leike.

  34. Lieke, this has been a very welcomed blog for me as I have just returned to study and I am finding that I have gone into overdrive. Your reflection has supported me to look at where that is coming from. We carry many old patterns in the way we live that are not true and it is very easy to let these dictate how we live in different instances. Awareness of our energy and energetic presence brings more honesty into our life and supports us to step out of the beliefs, ideals and pictures that drive us. Thank you.

  35. Amazing sharing Leike, we are so caught up in recognition that it is very insidious how it weaves through so much of our lives and why we do what we do!

  36. Making the education system about people first, taking care of themselves and honouring themselves would make a huge needed change to this system.

  37. Brilliant Lieke – everything you share here translates perfectly to many other spheres of life also. For instance, I am planning my upcoming wedding and can see I have let it be a matter of high drama too. Why? Well it certainly creates a lot of distraction and complication, all because of the incredible emphasis we put on our ‘big day’. But what you have shared has helped me see that getting stressed is just a choice and a way to numb myself. It doesn’t have to be like this. To truly pass the test of life is to say ‘no thanks’ to stress and strife.

    1. Beautiful Joseph, gorgeous that you are planning your wedding 🙂 There is a lot of things that can come up in planning a wedding and I know from experience but it is an art to just live each day with a fullness just as much as the wedding day. Many people live for their wedding but actually the love lived each day is what will guarantee the quality of the wedding in the end!

  38. The teachings of Universal Medicine are so simple, yet we can make them so complicated. I love here how you took the principles of these teachings, to observe what is going on, read what is going on, respond to the situation (and not react), and then let go of what needs to be let go, and then move on. This is a great example of how to do it. Thank you.

  39. This is very inspiring Lieke, when I think of studying I get anxious straight away but by reading this I got to feel what is there around it. There is a belief and a resignation that I’m not going to do well so I will worry about that from the start and approach learning with an ‘I have to remember this!’ attitude…. not conducive to a very supportive learning environment is it? Something I have experienced time and time again is that once I pinpoint what is untrue then the anxiety and complicated thoughts just go, as there is then nothing in the way of the truth of how I am and how I feel to live, eat, study, work, walk etc. to come through.

  40. Inspiring Lieke, it takes the honesty you achieved to reduce the false ways in which we have taken on to live. Under the stress is our essence where we are all-equipped to deal with the reality at hand. To get there is self-responsibility in being honest about what is not working for us.

  41. Great to explore what is driving you to have excellent exam results, and to see if recognition is still present, then you can nominate this and choose differently, ‘I realised I still had quite an investment in getting excellent university exam results.’ A great subject to explore.

  42. And when you explore you discover that there is beauty inside yourself, that it is amazing to just be yourself and bring this to the world, and so, ‘ With that I feel I do not need the recognition and approval anymore, and that all I truly want is love – from myself, for myself and from others. Love for who I am, not what I do or the great marks or exam results I could get.’

  43. This blog blows the lid on what it really means to prepare for an exam or assignment or any project really. We tend to think that we have to put everything else on hold and only focus on the project or goal at hand but actually what I have realised is that the other times when I am not in front of the books or computer e.g. sleep and mealtimes, exercise etc are just as important as the working time and if they are missing seriously affect the outcome or the outplay of the day when I have to deliver.

    1. Yes that is my experience too, the fact is that we are living in a body that needs water, nourishment, care and nurturing and when we ignore this for a couple of days or even hours afterwards we have to come back and feel the affect this has had on us. There is no way around it so it is much wiser and much more enjoyable to care deeply for our bodies all the time.

  44. These are questions to ask ourselves Lieke, bringing a depth of awareness to how we are living and our stress levels, and what we use to distract ourselves from being present and knowing what needs to be done, makes life complicated and exhausting when it does not need to be.

    1. Yes very true, all our problems are self-created in the sense that it is our reaction to life, to society – to the way things work at the moment, that make life hard and a struggle, not the things themselves perse.

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