The summer season can bring plenty of exam stress and feelings of being under pressure. The number of those dealing with exam stress is rising significantly according to the NSPCC and Childline, whilst TES cites the increase at 9%. This is particularly marked for young people undergoing the ‘big’ exams of GCSEs, A Levels or University degrees. These are all exam occasions and situations which can bring about stress, anxiety and panic.
At The Chelsea Psychology Clinic we specialize in working with children and young people around a variety of difficulties and have specialist psychologists who deal with juvenile aspects of mental health.
Talking therapies and mindfulness techniques administered by a therapy specialist can help to challenge some of the worries and concerns that students have about dealing with exam stress but there are some self-help steps that can be taken to limit the depth and impact of exam worries.
Recognize Exam Stress Before It Overwhelms
A bit of stress is no bad thing to keep us focused and encourage us to get on and work hard. But if things start to overwhelm then it can cripple and bring out other stresses and anxieties. Not a good place to be at the best of times but certainly not helpful when you are trying to ace your exams.
Exam stress symptoms include:
- Constant tiredness
- Loss of appetite
- Problems sleeping
- Increased heart rate or dizziness
- Lots of headaches
- Negative and low mood
Try and recognize these symptoms in yourself when they arise; take time out to talk to those who understand what you are going through and get things in perspective. If you are a parent remind your child that feeling anxious is natural and help them to normalize the things that they will go through on the day of their exam.
Once the signs are recognized it is important to develop and devise exam stress coping strategies and bring them into bring into play as quick as you can. Here are a few areas that are useful to put into practice…
Exam Stress Management
- Eat Well
Giving your body and brain fuel and nutrition to help revision is really important. A balanced diet full of vegetables and fruit will help, as will avoiding too many sugary snacks and drinks. Stimulants such as caffeine are not helpful, so try and reduce your coffee and chocolate intake.
- Get Your Beauty Sleep
Try and get 8 hours of sleep per night. Don’t screech up to bedtime straight from revision – try and get some downtime in before you turn off your light for the night.
Exercise is a great stress buster. Brisk walking for at least 20 mins, or more vigorous exercise will help you switch off and release stress relieving endorphin chemicals throughout your body.
- Choose Your Study Environment
Be sure to choose somewhere at home or school which represents a positive and calming environment for you to carry out your studies.
- Treat Yourself
Build treats into your schedule. These can be your favourite snacks or some time out watching your favourite movie. All in return for reaching certain study goals.
- Avoid Social Media
This could be a tricky one, but you will feel so much better if you can cut out Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook for a few days per week. Otherwise things become very distracting and time consuming. Remember, not many of your friends will be active on social platforms for the same reason.
- Steer Clear Of Exam Post-Mortems
You can’t change a thing after your exam is over so sitting down with friends to over-analyse a paper and the answers is never going to be healthy. Be kind to yourself and give these discussions a wide berth.
- Keep Things In Perspective
Exams may feel like the biggest and most important thing in the world while they are happening. But there is more to life than exams. Keep a perspective on your pre-occupation with their importance. Remember there are other things in life that will determine your future success.
Exam Stress Resources And Apps
There are a few apps and resources that are worth checking out to help you cope with exam stress….
- Download the Samaritans coping strategies resource pack for exam stress
- Mee-too app has been designed by a fellow student for his peers. Read all about it here
- And here is another exam stress app worth investigating
Most young people feel much better once the exams are through. However, it is not always the case for everyone.
If anxiety and low moods persist it is a good idea to get some help. Contact us here for a confidential chat.