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The University of Southampton
Student Disability & WellbeingPart of Student Services

Support for Exam Stress

Published: 7 January 2022

It's exam season again, which means that stress and anxiety can easily creep back into your life. And while some stress can 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 things you can do to manage your stress levels, help you to relax and perform at your best. Check out our Top Tips below for managing and easing your exam stress and anxieties.

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 improve your ability to study and succeed. 

Eat well: Too much sugar or fatty foods can cause dramatic surges of energy, but will also leave you feeling 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 efficiently 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. Apps for your phone, such as Calm or Headspace, can also help you do this.  

Reward Yourself: Studying for exams is not an easy task. Make sure you 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 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.  
Keep it in Perspective 
While they can be 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 is 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 it with your friends, so know that there are lots of other options available to you. The Student Wellbeing Team are available 24/7 and can offer one-to-one bookable appointments to discuss any issues that you are having and to outline the support available to you. 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. 


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