Have you ever caught a cold before a midterm test? A slight headache on the last night before an exam? Maybe even a feeling of nausea as soon as you see the question paper? Ever wondered why you get sick just at the time when you need your brains and body working at full speed. Does it not just feel that the entire universe is plotting against you, or is it just you?

Yes, it is and always has been you. The tension and anxiety regarding the exam triggered a negative response from you body’s immune system, making you more vulnerable to disease. This is because stress is immuno-suppressive (Selye, 1975), i.e. the more stress you take the worse the immune system is at fighting diseases.

stress immune

Stress does this by affecting the immune system through mediation of the brain and endocrine system(Ader, Felten, & Cohen, 1990). So the common colds that you caught and the headaches that you had, just before an exam were all physical responses to emotional stress.

These physical responses to any kind of psychological duress(i.e. bad stress) is called psychosomatic symptoms.

So if you want to avoid falling sick right in the middle of your exam preparations, I suggest you follow my advice. Prepare in advance for the exam, do not leave the preparation for the exam leaves. They are for revision and not for learning material. Use simple mnemonic devices like mind maps and acronyms. Eat healthy and sleep on time. Most importantly, do not panic!

It is an exam, not the end of the world.