Exams have two important parts – demonstrating what you know and managing them emotionally. Whether it is SATs, GCSEs, A-Levels, Finals or end-of-year exams, how you prepare from both perspectives is key.
So this week is Mental Health Awareness Week. Great timing for the start of the exam period. Exams and anxiety often go hand-in-hand so it’s an important time to monitor your mental health. You can have spent hours revising, but if your stress or anxiety levels are through the roof you are already setting yourself back. On a positive note, it’s not too late to do something about it.
There is no point revising until you are mentally and physically exhausted – your brain will only take in so much. Make a realistic timetable starting with your existing commitments, then add small chunks of revision time. After each one, plan some self-care. This could be fresh air, eating some food or talking with your family. It gives your brain time to process and refresh. Put in a deadline of when you will stop each night to give yourself time to relax and the best chance of quality sleep.
Encourage yourself. Putting yourself down or being over-critical isn’t going to keep you motivated. “You’ve worked hard”, “You’re doing well” or “You can get through this” go a long way to keeping you going.
Sounds simple, but anxiety is a physical response in your body so you have complete control over it. Breathing out for longer than you’re breathing in helps to regulate your emotional system. So, for example, breathe in for 4 seconds and out for 7 seconds. Practise at times you are feeling ok to help you get in the habit, don’t leave it until you are desperate.
Mindfulness is a simple way of controlling your thoughts. Rather than worrying about what might happen, that you haven’t done enough or that you might go blank, simple techniques can help you focus. Notice what you can see, hear or feel. Have a quiet place in your head where you can imagine yourself, like sitting on a deserted beach listening to the waves. Feel your feet on the ground or your body against the chair. Tell yourself that you’re safe.
Exams are important but so is your mental health. You can have control over them both if you keep things in perspective. Some anxiety is normal, it helps to keep you alert and motivated, but if it goes too far it can be harmful. Talk to other people about how you feel and how they manage – you are absolutely not alone.
It is worth investing some time in helping yourself emotionally – it’s really hard to think clearly when you are experiencing strong feelings. Look at when you’re angry and you want to throw things, or when you’re nervous and you can’t find the right words to say.
There are lots of resources you can use to help you manage the exam period emotionally – try this:-
Good luck and take care of yourself. Remember – you are in control.