How to deal with stress during exam season
Feeling stressed about your upcoming exams? Not to worry – we’ve created a list of ways that can help you combat feelings of stress, anxiety and worry during exam periods.
Even for the cleverest of students, exam season can be completely overwhelming. It is a common misconception that stress is conducive to good levels of productivity. In fact, when we feel stressed, our brains release high levels of cortisol, which has the adverse effect – clouding our mind and considerably reducing our ability to think clearly and work effectively.
The number of students seeking help for mental health issues is constantly increasing and many of these problems are induced by stress and anxiety around exams and exam performance.
Suffering from stress and mental health issues due to the pressure of exams can have a seriously negative impact on your ability to revise and show off your best skills in the exams.
Therefore, it has never been more important that students are receiving the help, support and guidance that they need to ensure a smooth exam period with as little stress as possible.
Here is the ultimate guide to helping students deal with stress during exam periods.
Enlist the help of a private tutor
One of the best ways to help combat stress during this time is to enlist the help of a private tutor. Tutor House work with expert tutors specializing in helping students to navigate this stressful and overwhelming time in their educational journey.
Experienced tutors are passionate and hugely knowledgeable about the subjects that they teach. In addition, a private tutor can provide students with invaluable advice on how to manage their time effectively to ensure a smooth and stress-free exam period.
From helping you design the perfect revision plan to giving you tips and tricks about exam and essay technique, a private tutor will work tirelessly to ensure you can effectively manage your stress and not let it get in the way of achieving the grades you deserve.
Aside from helping you to excel in your exams, private tutors will also help you to develop your learning abilities and broaden your knowledge. Moreover, your tutor can ensure that you stay focused on the task at hand and don’t get distracted – something that can be quite difficult when Instagram is just an arm’s length away.
Create an in-depth revision plan – and stick to it!
Many students approach revision in the wrong way, and this can lead to them burning out well before the exam period even starts. Trying to revise for long periods of time with no breaks is not a sustainable approach to revision and can wind up causing more harm than good.
The best way to ensure that you are managing your time properly and to get the best results is to create a detailed revision plan – and then stick to it. Pre-planning your days will not only help you to feel in control, but it will also ensure that you are using your time wisely.
Make sure to factor in breaks and plan exactly how long you will spend on each subject per day. Try to be as precise as possible when it comes to detailing your plan. For example, rather than just writing ‘English Revision’, try and find a precise area that you mean to cover, such as making notes on a specific set text. This will help you to feel like you’re making real and tangible progress.
It may sound obvious but it is also a good idea to write down all the times and dates of your exams on your revision plan – having everything in one place makes it much easier to manage your time wisely and have a clear understanding of what you need to do and how much time you have to do it.
Having a comprehensive and well-structured revision plan will massively help when it comes to prioritizing during exam periods. There’s nothing worse than sitting and staring at the huge pile of work you have to do with no idea where to start.
If you take the time to craft a detailed revision plan that takes into consideration your strengths and weaknesses, areas you need to focus on and those which you are already pretty comfortable with, then it will be easy to prioritize and make sure you are focusing enough time on each area/subject.
It is also important to make sure that you remain healthy, physically and mentally, throughout the exam period – so prioritize this above all else. You should never put your health at risk, so keep that as priority number one when you are planning how to tackle this challenging and stressful period.
Take regular breaks
Tying in nicely with the last point, it is vital that you make sure you are taking time for yourself during exam periods. Overworking and not getting enough rest will cause you to burn out, and this will not only further increase your stress levels but could also reduce exam performance and impact your grades.
Make a conscious effort to take regular breaks during revision sessions. How long and how often a student will take breaks will very much depend on them and their approach to learning but loose guidelines suggest that for every 20/30 minutes you spend revising, you should take a 5-minute break and so on.
However, some students prefer to spend longer periods working, and then take a longer break. The best way to know when to take breaks is to listen to your body – if you’re in the groove and working productively, then stopping because your 30 minutes is up probably isn’t a good idea. However, if you feel yourself becoming tired or distracted, then take a break, go get some fresh air and come back feeling revitalized and ready to go.
Outside of revising, you should also plan to do things that you enjoy and help you relax – whether that’s going for dinner, going to the cinema or just hanging out with friends. Factoring your hobbies into your schedule will give your brain a break and give you something to look forward to, keeping you motivated and helping you minimize stress.
Eat a balanced and nutritious diet
Sleep, exercise and a balanced diet are important in general, but even more so during stressful exam periods. When you’re under pressure, it is very easy to neglect a healthy lifestyle in favor of a lot of sugary, processed foods and coffee.
A balanced diet and exercising regularly are vital for your health and will help you enormously to manage stress levels and excel in your exams. The right food and drink will keep you energized, improve your alertness and help you stay on track.
Eat breakfast – It’s been dubbed ‘the most important meal of the day’ for a reason. Eating a good breakfast keeps your blood sugar levels even throughout the day and helps with productivity and concentration – which are vital during busy revision periods.
Snack wisely – It’s super easy to mindlessly each chocolate and crisps and other sugary, salty and unhealthy snacks when you’re revising. Whilst no-one can deny the more-ishness of a Pringle or a chocolate button, it is wise to avoid these foods as much as possible during exam periods as they can cause your blood sugar levels to spike and then crash, leaving you feeling generally grim. Instead, opt for things like apples with peanut butter, veggies and hummus, roasted chickpeas or even air-popped popcorn to keep you feeling full and satisfied between meals.
Stay hydrated – Not drinking enough water can make you feel tired and anxious and can considerably impact your ability to concentrate. Make sure you always have a bottle of water to hand, and take one into every exam with you (if you’re allowed). Also, it is best to try and drink as little caffeine as possible, as it can act as a diuretic so can actually cause the body to lose liquid. Whilst no one will begrudge you your morning latte, just make sure you don’t go overboard.
Get enough sleep and exercise regularly
Alongside a healthy and balanced diet, it is super important that students get enough sleep during busy exam periods. Sleep is vital for brain function so students should try and get at least 8-9 hours of sleep every night.
This ensures that your concentration levels remain high and that your brain functions at full speed all day. Whilst all-nighters may seem like a good idea at the time, the side effects of a night of no sleep can last for days and can take a real toll on your body and mind.
Exercise can feel like the last thing in the world that you want to be doing during busy exam periods. However, taking the time out of your day to exercise will help massively. Exercising gets the blood pumping round your body, essentially ‘waking you up inside’. From playing a sport to going to the gym or even just heading out for a walk, any form of exercise will have huge benefits and help you to maximize concentration both when you’re revising and when you’re sitting your exams.
Not only has it been proven that exercise reduces feelings of stress and anxiety, but it is also good for overall mental health and wellbeing. It is a well-known fact that exercising reduces endorphins, so not only will you feel refreshed, but you’ll also feel happier, allowing you to approach your work with a positive attitude.
Talk to someone about your concerns
During busy and stressful exam periods, it is vital that students have someone they can go to voice their concerns and work through any problems they are having.
Bottling everything up generally results in an outburst of some form of another – and this can be particularly detrimental during exam periods. Not only will talking to someone help you to gain a sense of perspective, but it will also allow you to release the tension that may have been building up inside you.
Whether you choose to seek help from a friend, teacher, parent or a private tutor – there will always be someone who you can talk to if you’re finding your exam period to be a challenge.
Story by Elise Pearce