It’s no secret that the exam period is a stressful time for students, with pressure to excel and the sheer volume of revision to complete, it can be somewhat overwhelming.
The stress felt by students is also carried on to their parents and teachers, so combating exam anxiety works for everyone.This isn’t about completely eradicating exam related stress, as a little stress has been found to be good for performance, but instead focuses on reducing and managing stress so that revision is more effective and our students live healthier, happier lives.
Stay organised - stay flexible
Encouraging students to create a revision schedule can help them stay on top of their workload more easily. However students often fall into the trap of creating overfilled, rigid schedules that aren’t effective.
A good revision schedule will be flexible and fluid, so life can go on around it. Sometimes blocking out specific hours in the day to complete certain subjects can be difficult to maintain, instead, try giving each day a topic that needs to be completed. This relieves some pressure by allowing students to work at their own pace. Also, be sure to include plenty of study breaks, we recommended a 20 minute break for every hour of revision completed. This keeps the brain alert throughout the day and reduces the likelihood of mental fatigue.
Get enough quality rest
As the focus is on work throughout exams, some students forget that downtime is still important. Getting enough quality rest is a key ingredient for staying on top of a busy exam period. There’s a number of steps our students can take to improve sleep quality and make sure they get regular rest, such as:
- Establishing a bedtime routine - Leave an hour or so before bed to listen to calming music or meditate before sleeping. This will give your brain a chance to wind down from the high workload it has been subject to.
- Keeping screens off - The blue light from mobile phone and computer screens can greatly affect sleep quality, keeping your phone off for an hour before bed will show significant improvements.
Avoiding caffeine or alcohol before bed - Caffeine is a stimulant and can keep your brain activity high, up to 6 hours after consumption. Alcohol disrupts sleep patterns and makes you more likely to wake up during the night, so it's best to avoid these before bed.
Creating a habit - Making a habit of waking up and going to bed at regular times gives your brain a regular pattern to get used to. This pattern will eventually become a habit, and once it does the action of going to bed and waking up at set times will be one less thing to think about.
Maintain a healthy lifestyle
Staying healthy and active is an extremely effective way of keeping on top of exam stress. Eating a balanced diet and doing regular exercise can combat stress, improve the brain’s performance and help our students feel better throughout exams.
Foods like fish and nuts, that are
high in omega 3, combat stress and
anxiety and improve brain health
Regular exercise has many benefits, among them is reducing stress and improving brain health, two benefits that are of great use to our students during exams. It can also provide an outlet to relieve the everyday stress of revision and schoolwork, as well as improving sleep. Eating a balanced diet can help our students feel better, specifically foods like fish and nuts, that are high in omega 3, also combat stress and anxiety and improve brain health.
Sometimes, it can feel like nothing is going to plan. It happens to all of us. But in such a high stress period, the mental health of our students is more fragile than usual. Small things like not getting enough sleep or missing an hour of revision can feel like a disaster to a student.
It’s important to remind our students that minor hiccups like this are not the end of the world and that everyone is going to make some mistakes leading up to their exams. Try to re-frame the situation in a less worrying way for your students and position exams as goals to work towards rather than an exacting standard they need to comply with. Working through any additional issues that are causing stress, such as bullying or health problems could also help students to feel calmer and may give them a greater scope for focusing on their revision.