Friday, 11 May 2018

Home Stressy Home: How to Maintain a Happy Household During Exams

Elise shares how she maintains a happy household during the busy exam period.
- Elise Jackson

Whether you prefer to work from home, in the library with your Bluetooth headphones, or on the floor of a pitying friend’s bedroom, exam time can be a nightmare. You’re living off meal deals and triple shot lattes, everything you wear has an elasticated waistband and you’ve lost all sense of time. And you’re surrounded by thousands of people doing the exact same thing, a few of whom you live with. So how do you stay okay? In the spirit of listening, I asked my housemates what they thought were the most important things in maintaining a happy home, and here’s what they said:

Routine, Routine, Routine

To me, this is the most essential. My routine for the past month or so has been: get up at 7.30/8, library, work, lunch break with friends, work, then home around 3pm. Writing that out, I see I’m on a secondary school schedule. At home, I’ll do some lighter low-pressure work and often I do it with friends, sitting in the living room or garden together. I try not to work past dinner time, so I can get into my PJs, listen to a podcast or watch an episode of TV, meditate, and be asleep by 11ish. Most of my house are on the same schedule, and there is something about knowing each other’s routines that helps soften the stress a little. Additionally, I’ve found it really helps to check in with each other regularly – mainly centred around mealtimes.
Along that vein…

Don’t sacrifice your social life!

Make sure you still do things with your friends during exams – balance is key. The proportion of time you can spend going out will be hugely reduced, but that social need remains. Whether this means a board game, a cinema trip or, as my house have done, a weekly pub quiz, you can make it as low-key as you like. Letting off steam and reminding yourselves why you enjoy spending time together will make your house dynamic infinitely better, as well as allowing yourself the time off will do wonders for your mental health. No whiskey, though.

Get a change of scenery

Changing your space can really change your mindset. My house got into the habit of switching rooms to study in when working from home, as this maintains your bedroom as a place reserved for sleep and relaxation. If you can’t do this, then make sure you don’t eat in your bedroom – take your lunch downstairs, or the garden if you have one. If the day is particularly overwhelming, go for a quick walk, or offer to do a run to the shop for sweets. Get out, breathe the air, and come back ready to go.

Don’t expect too much of each other…

It’s likely that not everyone is going to be on their game. People will forget things, be snappy, and there may be some tears. The best way to tackle conflict is to acknowledge it when it happens, allow for it (within reason), agree to apologise and move on. Additionally, if you want to do things that your housemates don’t, or if there’s no milk, or if someone is doing something that just gets under your skin, consider letting it slide this time. Ask yourself that if you were in their position, what could you handle, and deal with it accordingly. Recognise that it might be a you problem, not a them problem.

… but keep yourselves to a standard.

Living in a student house can be gross at times, but there is a limit. During exams, no one wants to be cleaning the hobs but it must be done. Clean up after yourselves, take the bin out when its full, bleach the loo if it’s looking dodgy, replace the washing up sponge if its falling apart. Things that take two seconds now save aggro later.
Hold certain standards: keep the noise down in the morning and at night, don’t invite a bunch of people over without asking, don’t be completely horrible to each other and pass it off as ‘I’m just stressed’. If everyone is held accountable, things should run smoothly, but make sure you strike that balance, and maybe lower the bar of expectation just that little bit. You’ll be all the better for it.


So, there is some wisdom from a fairly well-functioning, fairly happy third year household. The biggest thing to remember is that, as much stress as you’re feeling right now, it will be over soon, and you’ll all still be together. Support one another, get into routine, and don’t forget to cut yourself a little slack and have a bit of fun every now and again!



Hello! I'm Elise. I'm currently in my final year studying English Language and Literature at the University of Nottingham. My writings for Student Minds will range from pieces about depression and DPD to coping with loss, bereavement and change during your studies - all the while remaining mindful and getting the most out of university life. Thanks for reading!

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