Dos and don’ts of coping with exam stress

Revising for your exams can be a stressful time. For a few weeks every winter and summer students across the UK find themselves in the midst of exam season and many are feeling the pressure.

High stress levels can negatively affect your performance, so it’s important to make your state-of-mind a priority.

If you’re about to take exams, or have children who are, here’s how to minimise stress and anxiety during exam season.

DO break up your revision into manageable chunks. Think of revision as one big project and break it into smaller, manageable tasks that you can tick off each day. It will make it seem far less overwhelming.

DO look after your mind and body. There are multiple lifestyle factors that can affect your energy levels. First of all, getting a good amount of sleep is key to making sure you’re more alert and less prone to energy dips. Eat foods that help maintain your energy throughout the day, like whole grains, fresh fruit, lean protein, nuts and slow release carbohydrates. Exercise is also important. Far from tiring you out, moving your body will actually get your mind moving too, as exercise increases blood flow to the brain.

DO find support. Don’t deal with your exam stress alone – seek advice and support from your tutors or family and consider finding a friend to study with.

DO take regular breaks. People can generally concentrate in blocks of forty-five minutes, where it is then advised to take a ten to fifteen minute break. Get up and grab a cup of tea, take a walk round the block or simply look at something other than the task at hand. You could get more done in those forty-five minutes than if you were to power through hours of work, completely exhausting your brain.

DO be smart with your time. When do you work best? Some people are more productive in the morning and others, in the afternoon. Pay attention to this and use it to your advantage where you can. If you’re more productive in the morning, set your most challenging tasks for first thing and leave the easier jobs for when your energy is waning in the afternoon.

DON’T do all your easy tasks first. A lot of people make the mistake of leaving the bigger, more important tasks until last – this doesn’t work, as your concentration and attention span decrease as time goes on.

DO use apps to help you. These apps can do all sorts of things to aide your revision, such as helping free you from distractions, uploading handwritten notes to your phone and more. Discover our best productivity apps here.

DON’T get distracted by social media, online shopping and mindless web surfing. A great way to avoid getting distracted is to download an internet time-limiter such as StayFocused which blocks the amount of time you can stay on sites such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter throughout the day. You can opt to restrict your own access to sites either at certain times of the day, after you’ve used it for a certain number of hours, or for the whole day.

DON’T try and multitask. This dilutes your attention. Focus on doing one task really well, then move onto the next, instead of doing a mediocre job of several tasks.

DON’T set unrealistic goals. Whether you have several weeks or a few days to prepare for your exams, be realistic about what you can actually achieve in the time you have. Be overambitious with your time and you risk causing yourself even more stress and the risk of burning out.