Exam Stress: Recharging, Recouping, and Readjusting

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Exam Stress.  Wow.  It’s a loaded term - but seems over-simplified all at once.  How can two little words encompass the anxiety, worry, all-nighters, cramming, and everything in between?  

We know some people remain really pragmatic and organised throughout exam season, whilst others may struggle a lot more with the added pressure. You know which one you are. Either way, you’ve likely experienced assessment related stress to some extent.  


It would be a bit tone deaf of me to sit here and lecture on exam stress if I wasn’t a student and hadn’t just finished my exams – but lucky for you, I am, and I have – and blimey, the stress was real so you’re definitely not alone.  Considering I write about topics like procrastination and tips to beat it, or looking after your health and wellbeing, it’s safe to say that even I didn’t exactly follow my own advice.  Everyone struggles.  I didn’t sleep for days, pulled a few all-nighters, didn’t eat well nor enough, and, naturally, got very very stressed.  


If you slipped into bad habits during exam time, same lol. Let’s not beat ourselves up about it – we can’t be perfect all the time, right?  If you want some tips on avoiding exam stress, here’s I perhaps should have done to stay afloat. 


How To Help

Naturally, it’s really hard to think about anything but the exam that’s in front of you, but if you can incorporate a couple of these tips it might really help and alleviate some of the pressure just a bit.

  • Planning

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, take half an hour to think about your timescale, and how to structure your work.  Be realistic in doing that, some days you’re going to have a much more productive day than others, so smash out some more work on those days.  Others might be a struggle to even open the laptop screen.  Be kind to yourself, take it in chunks.  On my unproductive days, I’d set myself a goal to write maybe just 100 words in the next 2/3 hours, and often you’ll go far above that!  Have a mate hold you to it too, it really works – shout out to my housemate who would leave the house and tell me to have a certain amount done by the time she came home, cheers.

  • Understanding

Exam season really is the time where housemates, friendships, and relationships can be put under that extra bit of strain.  Take that extra breath before responding to something if you’re feeling a little fraught.  The likelihood is that your friends will too, and it’ll make for a much more beneficial exam season for all of you.  Be understanding that when people are stressed, as much as it might annoy you, they may struggle to wash their dishes right away, or come and socialise in the evenings, or listen to others talk about anything that isn’t exams.  It can be tough, both as the person going through it, and as the friend.  But on both parts try to allow that little extra allowance for stress.


Recouping Post Exams

A lot of assessments have come to an end.  So I wanted to throw a bit in at the end here about recouping after exam season. 


Firstly, if you’re able, please get outside.  You’re likely to have been hibernating for a couple of weeks, so go get some fresh air.  You can’t beat a walk around Bute Park, or Roath Lake or even round the Bay.


Secondly, sleep.  If you’ve been pulling those all-nighters your sleeping pattern is likely going to be so out of whack.  So, early nights and lie ins please! 


Thirdly, okay so slightly contradicting the above…but if you’re comfortable with socialising – then get out with your mates!  Go for a nice dinner, grab a drink at the pub, have a BBQ in the garden.  Make the most of this sunshine and summer that we’ve got before move out day arrives (but be mindful of the Covid-19 guidelines yeh). 


Lastly - and arguably the hardest to do - put exams out of your mind.  They’re done.  They’re submitted.  There is quite literally nothing you can change on that paper now, for better or for worse.  Something I tell myself is that if I worry about something before it’s happened i.e. results, then I’m only hurting myself by putting myself through the anxiety twice – once now and once at the results.  You should be so proud of yourself for getting through a year of a degree (which is hard enough in normal times) but in the middle of a GloBaL PaNdeMiC!  That deserves a pat on the back as it is.  Let alone having completed an exam season during it too.  Remind yourself that you really did do that, and wow look at you go.


Final Thoughts…

If you are finding a return to normality a bit overwhelming, same. Why not reach out to the Student Advice team if you need to talk. We are not counsellors or clinical professionals but we can signpost you to a range of support services and can ask other professionals to get in touch with you too.  Head here for some more info.


Thinking about going out, remember, your tolerance may have changed. Maybe skim over our Personal Safety and Alcohol webpages to remind yourself about staying safe on the town (Yes Mum I hear you say).


And always remember to be kind to yourself, check out some useful bits on that here - Looking after your Health & Wellbeing


This blog has been written by Charlie Mallinson from the Student Advice Team in the Students’ Union. If you would like further help and support with the issues raised in this blog, or any aspect of your student experience, please get in touch using the following links:

Contact Student Advice


+44 (0)2920 781410