Tips to look after your mental health as exam season starts

Exam season often leaves young people feeling stressed and under pressure. Addaction is reminding people they’re not alone and there are positive ways of coping.

Lindsay Buchanan, who works for Addaction’s Mind and Body programme, goes into schools to support young people with their emotional health and wellbeing. She said: “Exam stress and pressure has been coming up in pretty much every conversation with young people at the moment.

“Whilst stress can be a useful thing, giving us motivation and adrenaline, it’s a fine line and letting it get out of hand has the opposite affect and stops us being in control.  

“It’s important that young people know how to manage stress and exams are a useful time to put this skill into practice. But it’s also important to remind them that people achieve amazing things in life regardless of exams. Whilst they are important, they’re not the only way to a successful future.”

Signs of stress include prolonged periods of:

  • Difficulty sleeping or waking and constant tiredness
  • Forgetfulness
  • Migraines/headaches
  • Poor appetite
  • Unexplained aches and pains
  • Increased anxiety and irritability
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Dizziness or blurred vision
  • Panic attacks

10 Tips for coping with exam stress from Addaction:

  1. Learn to recognise your own signs of stress and what calming activities make you feel better e.g. taking time out to talk to someone, going for a walk, listening to music.
  2. Look after yourself; eat well, sleep well, exercise and avoid cigarettes, alcohol and drugs.
  3. Save your bed for sleep not revising. It’s a relaxing spot, not a study corner. And build in some relaxation time before bed to help clear your mind.
  4. Avoid comparing yourself to others. You know how you learn best, make a plan and stick to it, and build in breaks. You’ll be more likely to remember information if you stop for a cuppa or a walk regularly.
  5. If you feel panic, take a moment to focus on your breathing. Slow it down, breathe through your nose and count to five each way.
  6. Swap the negative voice in your head for a positive one. Instead of ‘I can’t do this’ try ‘relax, concentrate - I’m going to be ok’.
  7. Write your worries down, then decide to either throw them away or give them to someone you trust.
  8. Ask your family to be supportive by not adding to the pressure, but giving you quiet time, and letting you off household jobs during busy times.
  9. Try to visualise yourself walking calmly and confidently into the exam and after its over, instead of going over every answer with your friends, plan a treat to look forward to.
  10. If you feel overwhelmed, talk to your teachers, friends, parents and/or Addaction. Don’t bottle it up, it’s ok to ask for help.