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  • Writer's pictureCaitlin Begley

How to: Cope with Exam Anxiety

As we approach exam season for many students, it can become a very daunting and stressful time. Whether you're in school, college, or university, no matter what your exam, you're bound to have some nerves leading up to your test.

Here are a few top tips for dealing with those big exam anxiety feelings...

Nerves are normal!

The first thing to remember while coping with exam nerves is to remember: anxiety is a normal emotion.

We're supposed to feel some level of anxiety in some situations, otherwise we wouldn't care about anything. Imagine if our ancestors weren't nervous about sabre-tooth tigers- we probably wouldn't be here today.

We don't fight sabre-tooth tigers nowadays, but we do encounter big "life-changing" moments that our brains perceive as dangerous or worrying.

Exams are one of these: we worry about failure, embarrassment, and our future, all very valid things to be thinking and nervous about.

We all feel some exam anxiety. It's normal to have some nerve-wracking thoughts of a fail- that adrenaline and nervous energy can fuel us to revise, work harder, and concentrate on the big day.

However, if your anxiety is getting in the way of your learning, day-to-day life, and mood, it may become a problem. Here's a few ways to tackle it...

1. Keep a routine

Make yourself a timetable or daily routine. This can help you plan out what you need to revise and when. Having things down on paper often puts things into perspective, and being prepared can alleviate a lot of anxiety. Having routine and structure can also generally reduce anxiety- this also translates to sleep and eating habits. Keep a similar (sensible) sleeping pattern, and try to eat regularly. This will keep your body as relaxed as it can be, so your energy can be spent on learning.

2. Look after you

Your priorities may seem exam-related, but a happy you is a happy brain, ready for lots of revision! Take some time to do things you love- see your family, go for a walk, take a hot bath, watch an episode of your favourite show. Self-care is often overlooked in exam preparation, but when you schedule it into your exam timetable it can make a huge difference for your anxiety.

3. Talk!

They say talking is the best therapy, and that's particularly true for anxiety. Chatting to a peer who is sitting the same exam can have a few perks- you can exchange revision tips, but it can also put into perspective how you're feeling. Speaking to a classmate who is also feeling anxiety can remind you how normal it is in the exam period, and talking about your worries can help get the weight off your mind. You could also share ways you reduce your stress. Talking to parents, teachers, and other friends is also a good idea.

Reminding yourself you're not alone is a great way to calm your nerves and remember that no matter the outcome of your exams: you're still amazing!

For more support...

Sometimes, you can follow all the tips but still feel overwhelmed by anxiety. If your exams nerves become too hard to brush off, are affecting your sleep, mood or eating, explore these further options for advice and support.

  • Turn to your university, college, or school. These places often have great support systems available, like counsellors, support groups or helplines. The waiting list is often less than nationwide services, and you can often receive face-to-face support.

  • Student Minds. Student Minds is an organisation for students mental health advice and guidance. You can call them on 0113 343 8440 or visit their webpage

  • Get in touch with your GP to explore your wellbeing options. This may involve some talking therapies, or medication if the problem is affecting your everyday life.


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