I feel as though I’m pretty much a seasoned exam-taker at this point – after five years of GCSEs, A Levels and now University exams I’ve had my fair share of revision-related melt downs and let me tell you they are not fun.
My final year of A Levels was actually the lowest point of my mental health to date – in January I was having at least three panic attacks a day, could barely make it into Sixth Form let alone out of the house, and was a completely stressed out, anxious mess.
After taking a year out to recover and give myself a break, I’ve come into my first year of Uni with the determination that I will not let myself get back to that stage. Yes, exams and assignments are important – but your mental health, even more so. So I’ve learned a few things along the way which have helped me get through nearly all of my first year without any panic attacks and only a few meltdowns – which is pretty incredible for me! I thought I’d share them here with you in case there’s anyone out there struggling, as I certainly could have benefited from reading a post like this two years ago…
- Limit your hours of study per day – one of the biggest changes I’ve made this time around is to limit the time that I spend studying per day, and it has really helped in preventing me from feeling over-worked and stressed. During the semester I decided to stop working after 7pm, and now during exam season I’m limiting myself to 6 hours of study per day – just like a normal school day. Obviously you can tailor this to whatever suits you and your schedule, but having a bit of structure rather than working yourself into oblivion really helps.
- Take regular breaks – I know this has become a bit of a cliché and is in practically every revision advice post out there, but there’s a reason for it. Putting yourself under the stress of revising for hours on end is never worth it – most of the time you end up overworking yourself and nothing ends up going in anyway. I always make sure to have an hour break for lunch, completely away from my laptop or any books, and a half hour break mid-afternoon just to let my brain have a little refresh.
- Don’t torture yourself if you break your schedule – Yes, it’s exam season, but that doesn’t mean you forfeit the right to have a life. I used to feel so guilty just for going out to lunch with my family or seeing friends when I should’ve been revising – but I’ve realised now that I need to be less hard on myself. It’s okay to have a break from revision every now and then, especially if you’re struggling with a certain topic – taking some time away from it and getting some air means you can come back to it later with a fresh outlook.
- Don’t neglect your hobbies/routine – Similar to the last point, it’s important to keep doing the things you enjoy. Just because exams are coming doesn’t mean you have to drop everything, and taking time out for an activity that you love or that makes you feel calm is so important in terms of mental health. And if that activity includes exercise, even better – going for a run or doing a workout always helps me feel more energised and positive.
- Give yourself plenty of time – If you’re anything like me then you’ll start revising about 2 months prior to the actual exam just to avoid the panic and stress of last minute cramming. It’s just not worth it. Give yourself enough time to plan out what you need to do to prepare and then execute it, and you’ll feel a lot more in control. It sounds obvious, but so many people leave revision to the last minute and regret it. Don’t torture yourself!
So those are just a few little changes that I’ve found to really help when coping with the stress of exam season. Obviously everyone is different – what might work for me might not work for someone else – so if you do things differently feel free to share below in the comments, you never know who might find it helpful!
I’ve linked some useful resources below for anyone seeking extra advice/support, good luck everyone!