Monday 1 May 2017

Help! Coping with exam stress - only one month until my first exam!

Abi writes about how best to live and work through the exam revision season when you've only got one month to go.
- Abi Bennetts

I stared at the date with horror when I woke up this morning: IT IS NOW ONLY ONE MONTH UNTIL MY FIRST EXAM. 
For most students, exam periods are the most stressful few weeks of the year. Whilst some pressure can motivate us to achieve the best we can, too much can cause severe stress and low mood, both during and beyond exam season.

Here are some tips to deal with stress throughout the exam period:

Look after your physical health 
If you’re already feeling anxious and overworked, eating poorly, not being active enough and not getting enough sleep will not make you feel any better, and will affect your performance in exams. Stay hydrated and try to eat as healthily as possible. Why don’t you spend an afternoon before a busy exam week batch-cooking healthy meals that you can refrigerate or freeze? Your body (and your mind) will thank you for it. Microwaving your nutritious meal after a long day at the library leaves you less tempted to buy ready meals and takeaway. 

Schedule in some time to get active. We all know exercise relieves stress. Plus, it lets your brain focus on something other than your module contents. While it’s tempting to spend revision breaks crawling into bed and catching up on TV, being active for an hour or two might do more to boost your energy levels. Whether it’s a gym session, a walk with friends, a swim, or a team sport, exercise will keep your mind and body energised, and make it easier to get those recommended 8 hours of sleep!

Keep in contact with friends and family
Exam season shouldn’t force you into five weeks of solitude. Keep in contact with your friends and family, as they are your biggest support network. My mum still receives a teary FaceTime every time I’ve got an upcoming deadline or exam, but I always feel better after voicing my concerns to her. Your friends are likely to feel just as stressed as you, so spending time with them sharing will often make you feel better. You could plan trips to the library together, or revision sessions at each other’s houses. If you revise better on your own, you could plan joints revision breaks for a walk, a film, or a (much needed) coffee. In my first year, all my friends and I would sync up our planned revision breaks, and congregate for tea and biscuits in one of the flats in our halls. Those tea breaks with everyone were the highlight of my days, and made life feel a little bit more normal. 

Be organised (and realistic)
Four weeks ago, I’d made a highly detailed revision plan, and expected to be completely on top of all my deadlines. Good intentions, right? But revision was delayed by my part-time job, time with friends and family at home, and a general feeling of ‘CBA’. It is essential to be organised to achieve exam success. However, it is important to be realistic whilst organising your revision plan. Some people may have a part-time job, sports practice, a doctor’s appointment, or a friend’s birthday. Your revision plan needs to fit around this. You also need to include planned, regular revision breaks, and some power naps/early nights. Figure out when you work most effectively: some people work better in the evening, and some are better in the mornings. Feeling more in control of what you’re learning and when you’ll learn it will help you feel more on top of your progress, and less stressed.

I wish everyone the best of luck in their exams. It’s so important to remember that exams aren’t everything. Exam results do not define you as a person. Employers won’t just look at exam scores and, for the sake of your mental health, they are not worth getting super stressed and low about. Remember to take care of yourselves (and your friends), and I’ll see you on the other side…..

For information on exam stress and studying click here.

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