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Top Tips for Managing Exam Stress

Published: 5 January 2018
Exam Stress
It's important to find the balance between revision and relaxation.

It's exam season again, which means that stress and anxiety can easily creep back into your life. And while some stress can actually be helpful to motivate your revision, exams can make stress levels escalate to a level that also impacts your performance and wellbeing. Thankfully there are lots of things you can do to manage your stress levels, help you to relax and perform to the best of your abilities. Check out our Top Tips and Useful Downloads below for managing and easing your exam stress and anxieties, as well as details about how to book a space on one of our workshops, such as Hypnosis for Exam Success.

 Make a Plan

Taking the time to get organised is a quick way to reduce stress or anxiety around exams. Start by focusing on the basics – where, when and how long will you dedicate to each course? Where are you the most productive? Which revision might require more attention? Breaking it down into small chunks makes it easier to focus and feel accomplished. Remember - this also means scheduling breaks for relaxation. For every 45 minutes try to take a 10-15 minute break to unwind. And if you go slightly off schedule? Don’t panic – tomorrow is another day!

Take Care of Yourself
It can be easy to let little things slip when we are stressed. Keep it simple and focus on good habits that will actually improve your ability to study and succeed.

Eat well: Too much sugar or fatty foods may cause dramatic surges of energy, but will also leave you drained. Stick to slow-releasing energy foods such as fruit & vegetables, nuts & whole grains. 
Drink Water: Staying hydrated will help your mind and body function properly and sufficiently under stress.
Sleep: Did you know that our memories are backed-up when we sleep? This alone speaks to the importance of sleeping well during the exam period.
Relax: There are lots of simple calming breathing techniques and body movements that you can practice to help reduce stress. Relaxation podcasts can also be an easy way to relax as you study.
Reward Yourself: Studying for exams is not an easy task. Make sure to remind yourself of how far you’ve come, and take the time to pat yourself on the back. Do something you enjoy or that relaxes you –take a hot bath, listen your favourite album or enjoy a small treat every now and again.

Know What Not to Do
Try to avoid the common pitfalls that can occur during stressful periods. Bad habits such as setting unrealistic goals, cutting out all enjoyment or fun from your life, and the overuse of stimulants (such as caffeine, alcohol and drugs) can have a negative impact and prevent you from reaching your goals. Try to recognize when you might be getting stressed and consider reviewing #1 & 2 for ideas on management.

Keep it in Perspective
While they are significant, it is important to remember that exams aren’t everything and are certainly not the only element that defines you as a student. Reflect on how far you’ve come and your previous academic successes that have gotten you to where you are now. It also might be helpful to remember that employers don’t just look at exam scores, nor is it likely that your course be based entirely on your exam score.

Ask for Help
Talk it out! If you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed or anxious it can be helpful to talk about it. It might be that you don’t want to discuss this with your friends, so know that there are lots of other options available to you. Enabling Services offer self help materials and a daily drop-in every weekday between 13:00-15:00 in B37.  The Student Life team are dedicated to supporting student wellbeing and enhancing the student experience.  Available for all students 24 hours a day, support can be accessed via telephone, email or face to face by visiting one of the Halls of Residence. 

Additionally Student Life will be available to support you in Hartley Library during the busy exam period.  They will have two staff based in the glazed pod workspaces in the Assistive Technology Suite and will also be regularly walking through the Hartley throughout their shifts to offer support to students with their wellbeing.  

They will be available from 8-21 January from 5:00pm-6:00am and can be identified by their purple polo shirts with "Student Life" written on them.  

The Academic Skills Hub at the Hartley Library also offer lots of online and in-person resources to ensure your revision is efficient and effective.


Enabling Services are also offering specific workshops to support you with exam stress. 

Hypnosis for Exam Success: taking place Wednesday 10 and 17 January from 13:30-15:00 in House 28.  This hypnosis taster session will help you learn how to take more control over your anxiety and prepare for success in those exams.  Join us in a relaxed environment to learn more about hypnosis and its benefits.  

Revision and Memory: taking place Wednesday 10 January from 13:00-14:00 in the AT Suite (Level 2, Hartley Library). Designed for students with an SpLD, this workshop will introduce a range of strategies to help you effectively revise and memorise information for exams.

To find out more information and book a space on either or both of these workshops, please visit our events page.

Alternatively, you could try out our Mindful Friday sessions which take place in House 28 from 13.00-13.45 every Friday.  No need to book ahead- just come along on the day.


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