Exams can be scary. First, studying. Weeks of preparation, late nights and cramming are stressful. Next, waiting. The countdown to results day leads to anxiety and more stress.

Yet, there is a better way.

1. Watch for the signs of bad stress

Stress can be good sometimes; it can help you to work harder and focus. But it can also have a negative effect and make it hard to cope. Stress might be affecting you if you:

  • Feel tense
  • Get lots of headaches and stomach pains
  • Feel irritable
  • Lose interest in food or eat more than normal
  • Not enjoy activities they previously enjoyed
  • Seem negative and low in mood
  • Struggle to sleep
  • Always thinking about your exams or worrying about them

2. Talk about what’s happening

Talking about how you’re feeling can reduce the pressure and help you to feel more in control. Or it can help someone realise that they might be putting too much pressure on you. Why not try:

  • Talking to a friend you trust
  • Talking to a parent or family member
  • Getting advice from other students on message boards
  • Contact student services, a trusted lecturer or contact the University counselling and wellbeing service

3. Find ways to relax and take breaks

No matter how much work you have to do, it’s important to take regular breaks and find ways to relax. Taking a break can leave you feeling in control and research suggests it makes it easier to concentrate when you start working again.

Try the following tips:

  • Set a timer to take a 15-minute break every hour
  • Give yourself something to look forward to, like a treat or an activity you enjoy
  • Plan when you’re going to start and finish your revision, so you know when to stop

4. Stay healthy

There are small things you can do every day to help you cope:

  • Eat healthily – Make sure you don’t skip meals
  • Exercise – This can clear your mind and give you more energy
  • Self-care – find things that help you to feel calm and relaxed

5. Get enough sleep.

Getting enough sleep can help you to concentrate more and feel less stressed. It might be tempting to stay up late revising, but sometimes this can make you feel even more stressed.

  • Decide when you’re going to stop revising and don’t push yourself to stay up later.
  • Avoid caffeine, especially in the evening.
  • Give yourself time to relax after you stop revising.
  • Eat early in the evening.

6. Preparing for the exam

  • Simple things make a difference. Do some planning and make a checklist of everything you need
  • Prepare all equipment pens and pencils the night before.
  • Go to bed early
  • In the morning have a healthy breakfast to help you focus and concentrate.

Further support

Stress affects everyone differently, but if you’re worried, you don’t have to cope alone.

Contact student services, a trusted lecturer or contact the University counselling and wellbeing service. They will work with you to identify the issue so it can be tackled appropriately.

This guest post is written by the First Aid Training Co-Operative, as part of their campaign to raise awareness of the need for mental health first aid in academia and the workplace