The second in a series of three articles by Vanessa Brown our counsellor for young people and adults, about how to survive the exam season…..
A little bit of stress can be a good thing, as it motivates us to knuckle down and work hard. But exams can make stress levels get out of hand, which can stop us from performing our best. So it’s important to address it and keep it under control
Look out for prolonged or extreme cases of the following:
- Difficulty getting to sleep or difficulty waking in the morning
- Constant tiredness
- Unexplained aches and pains
- Poor appetite, or over-eating
- Loss of interest in activities
- Increased anxiety or irritability
- Increased heart rate
- Blurred vision
If you have three or more of the above symptoms severely and/or over the course of a few weeks, you may need to do something about your stress levels.
How to manage exam stress
- Learn to recognise when you are stressing out. A break or a chat with someone who knows the pressure you are under will help get things into perspective.
- Avoid comparing your abilities with your friends. Everyone approaches revision in different way, so just make sure you’ve chosen the method that works best for you.
- Make a realistic revision timetable – and stick to it.
- Eat well. Treat yourself like a well-honed machine – eat fresh fruit and veg and have proper breakfasts. Feed your brain as well as your body – no one can think straight
- on coffee and chocolate.
- Sleep well. Wind down before bed and don’t revise under the duvet – your bed is a sanctuary, not a desk. Get you eight hours.
- Exercise. Nothing de-stresses the mind faster than physical activity, so build it into your timetable. Being a sloth makes our mind sloppy too.
- Panic is often triggered by hyperventilating (quick, shallow breaths). So if you feel yourself losing it in the exam, sit back for a moment and control your breathing. Deep breathe in and out, counting to five each way.
- Steer clear of any exam “post mortem”. It doesn’t matter what your friend wrote for question 3, it’s too late to go back and change your answers, so it will just make you worry even more.
Ultimately, don’t lose sight of the fact that there is life after exams. Things might seem intense right now, but it won’t last forever!
For more advice on exam stress, go to bbc.co.uk/bitesize, where there are also some short video clips “Don’t let the Fear, the Fog and the Cram Get to You”, or search BBC Advice factfiles.