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Everyone feels stressed during exams. It is normal and often encourages us to focus and work hard. This is good. However, high-stress levels around exam time can have a detrimental effect on performance. This may lead to the inability to concentrate on work and can lead to feeling out of control, causing a negative effect on time spent on crucial revision.
Increased levels of stress can lead to difficulty getting to sleep or waking up, constant tiredness, forgetfulness, unexplained aches or pains, poor appetite, loss of interest in activities, higher levels of irritability, increased heart rate and dizziness, this response to stress can have a damaging effect on studying. Suffering from these symptoms for an extended period of time is a sign that stress levels are too high and measures need to be taken to reduce them.
Below are a few of our tips for how to cope with stress around the exam period, hopefully enabling you to boost the effectiveness of your revision.
1. Take a break
Studies show that taking short periodic breaks can benefit our ability to absorb and retain information. On top of this, taking a break can help to diffuse and keep stress to a minimum. A 15-minute break every hour or so is a good starting point.
2. Know where and when you work best
Some people prefer to wake up at 7am and head down to the library, while others prefer to stay up late working in their room. Suss out when you feel most alert and aim to do the most revision then. Wherever and whenever you feel calm and in control is best to help with dealing with exam stress.
3. Eat well
Before you do any revision in a day eat breakfast. It is estimated that around 27% of boys and 39% of girls skip breakfast some or all of the time. Make sure you’re providing your brain and your body with the fuel it needs for concentrating on revision. Eat as much fresh fruit and vegetables as possible and drink water. Try to limit how much you indulge in coffee and chocolate. Most importantly, make sure you eat breakfast before exams!
4. Get your 8 hours of sleep
Don’t revise right before switching your light off for a nights sleep. Give yourself time to wind down to make sure you sleep well without constant worry preventing you from nodding off. Some find jotting down a list of your ‘to-do’s’ ready for the next day useful. Scribbling down your notes can help you to clear your thoughts, which is important for a good nights sleep.
Physical activity is one of the best things you can do to de-stress. Anything from a 20-minute walk to an hour-long ‘gym sesh’ helps reduce physical tension and releases natural feel-good chemicals in the brain.
6. Reward yourself
Incorporate treats into your exam timetable. For example, reward yourself by watching an episode of your favourite programme after a couple of hours revision, or treat yourself to a few snacks after focusing for 30 minutes. Also, plan something exciting like a mini holiday or party for the finish of exams to keep you focused on finishing them!
7. Keep distractions at bay
Sorry folks, but your phone counts as a distraction… switch off, pull your curtains, lock yourself in your room. Do whatever you can to create a distraction-free environment for your studies.
8. Keep it in perspective
There’s more to life than just exams. While things may seem tense around exam time, it’s important to remember this will pass. Worrying about how well you’ve performed will distract you from future exams, which could ruin your chances of performing well in them. Also, remember that performance in exams is not the only thing necessary to be successful.
Unsure about what to do after leaving secondary school? Read our post-exam blog piece here.