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Managing Your Mental Health During Exams

Posted by Honor Wellington in

Managing Your Mental Health During Exam Season

The demands of exam season can take a toll on your mental health. Pressure to succeed can cause feelings of stress, anxiety, or depression. While you should always try to perform to the best of your ability, looking after your mental health during exams is far more important.

5 Ways to Look After Your Mental Health During Exams

Exam season is a stressful period, but there are a few simple steps you can take to make it more manageable. We've put together five ideas to help you protect your mental health during exams and your revision period.

Make a clear plan

Not knowing where to start can make the revision process feel overwhelming. You have a lot of material to cover in a relatively short period of time. Making a clear plan at the beginning of your exam period can provide some much-needed clarity. Try to establish a schedule and set achievable goals every day. Be realistic about what you can manage. It's more valuable to schedule three hours of focused revision than force yourself to sit at a desk for eight hours while not concentrating. Breaking things down into smaller, digestible chunks will help you to stay organised and motivated.

Find a balance

Exam season can last for over a month. It's simply not realistic to only focus on your studies during this time. In order to avoid burnout, it's important to maintain a balance between work and play. Schedule breaks into your revision plans and incentivise yourself with things you enjoy. This can be as simple as planning to watch a TV show with your housemates when you finish revising, or rewarding yourself with your favourite meal. Ensure you are also making time to move your body regularly. Revision can be quite a sedentary activity, so exercise can be a refreshing break.

Don't isolate yourself

As revision tends to be a solitary activity, the exam period can feel isolating. One of the best ways to look after your mental health during exams is to ensure that you are spending time with others. You could organise to study with friends or join a revision group. Or, if you work better alone, make time to hang out with friends and family during your breaks or after you finish revising.

Get enough sleep

Exam stress can make it hard to get to sleep at night. Unfortunately, not getting enough sleep can also have a negative impact on your mental health. According to Mind, if you are having problems sleeping then you are more likely to experience symptoms of anxiety or depression. To help make sure that you get a full eight hours of sleep every night, you can make a few easy changes.

First, ensure that you separate your revision space from your resting space. This means no working from your bed. Studies have shown that working on your bed makes you less productive and makes it harder to switch off at the end of the day. So set up a dedicated study space, preferably at a desk. Or, try working from a different environment altogether, like your university library.

You could also try a guided meditation app designed to help you to sleep, like Calm or Headspace. Headspace offers 85% off for students, or, if you have a premium Spotify student account, you can use Headspace for free.

Talk about your feelings

Bottling up your anxieties will make you feel worse. Don't keep it all inside. Talk to your friends and family about your mental health during exam period, particularly if negative feelings are starting to arise. Your university friends are in the same boat and will likely have many of the same concerns as you. Talking to them about your worries will help reinforce that you aren't alone. Just ensure that you aren't directly comparing yourself to others. Everyone works differently and will have different methods that work for them.

If you're struggling but feel like you can't speak to friends or family, reach out to your personal tutor or a trusted university lecturer. Pastoral care is part of their job, and they are best positioned to help you make any specialised arrangements for exams that you might need. This could include offering extensions on deadlines or extra time in assessments. They can also point you towards the right professional support, like your university counselling service.

As you enter your exam period, remember to look after yourself and your friends. Making even a few small changes can have a big impact on your mental health. For more information on managing stress during university, check out our infographic, Stress 101.