I’m hearing so many stories about exam stress and struggles at the moment, from both students/pupils and parents alike. Exams feel like such a big deal and if you’re living with this pressure or living with a child who is experiencing this pressure, it will likely take a toll on the entire family. For those of you who have perfectionist tendencies, then the pressure can be even greater.
Mental health can certainly be challenged in the run up to exams and as many will be engaged with social media, the constant notifications can be a real distraction making it more difficult to concentrate and revise. But if you’re also struggling with procrastination and perfectionism in the run up to exams, I invite you to consider the following 5 tips...
Aim to have short bursts of revision and treat yourself at the end of each period of revision. If procrastination is preventing you from studying, you may be better able to discipline yourself by providing this positive reinforcement after each revision stretch (the treat could include meditation, exercise, a sweet treat to a phone chat, a walk in the park, a social media burst or watching an episode of your favourite TV show).
Stop comparing your own revision timetable to others. We all revise differently and we will inevitably focus on different aspects of a subject. If we are constantly chatting and comparing with others, we are likely to become distracted with what they are doing and it can send us off target, possibly thinking that our revision focus is incorrect.
It can feel counterintuitive to take time out from exam revision when the pressure is on but having time for yourself can really be of benefit. Your brain will be fresher and you will likely be in a better position to focus when you return to the studying. This time out can involve exercise, meeting with friends (but aim to stay off revision topics).
Challenge your negative thinking: Often we live with the worry and anxiety of our worst-case scenario taking place, whether that’s failing exams, not getting the grades we really want or letting others down. However, the reality of that worst-case scenario taking place is probably very minimal. So, I invite you to ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” And then ask yourself, “What’s the likelihood of that happening?”
Gain some perspective: There is so much pressure on students to gain suitable grades for the ‘best’ university or career, but once the exams are done, whether you do as well as hoped or not, the reality of life is that in 5 years time, it’s highly unlikely to matter. You will be in a different place with different commitments, so try to put some perspective on things. Some of the most successful and interesting people still don’t know what they want to do at age 40+. It’s never ever too late, so don’t feel as though your entire future rests on these exams! I invite you to ask yourself: “If I look back on these exams in 5 years time, what will I be thinking?”, “Will I be focusing on any different part of my experience?”
Finally, if we really don’t do so well in our exams, there is so much learning that can take place from this experience, even if it feels dreadful at the time. We all learn through adversity and we can develop resilience when things don’t go our way. There’s always a positive to be gleaned. Remember, it’s never the end of the world and there’s so much more to life!
There are plenty of online resources to help you with exam stress, some of which are listed below: