Exams can be stressful, and the revision leading up to the exam can be even worse!

It is important to remember that there is life after your exams, and during your exams! It can be difficult, but you must remember to maintain a balance between work and life. Yes, the balance is likely to temporarily shift in favour of more time revising and studying, but there is no harm in taking breaks here and there to see friends and have some time away from the books. And have in mind that once the exams are over, you can return to your normal social calendar!

That being said, it is important to work hard; to know that you’ve done everything you can to give yourself the best chance in your exam. After all, if you know you’ve worked your hardest, then you can be happy that you gave yourself the best chance of success on the day.

Also, bear in mind that taking breaks is not wasted time. People think that if they don’t take breaks they can cram in more revision time, when in reality that’s not how it works. Taking short regular breaks to go for a walk to stimulate blood flow, getting some fresh air or just going to talk to another living human, will actually enhance your ability to learn and remember.

This image shows blood flow to the brain before and after a 20minute walk. Which brain is going to be most stimulated to learn well? Breaks are important, and will actually enhance your revision, so don’t skip them. That being said, the basic pattern should be work interspersed with breaks, and not a long break interspersed with little bits of work!

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There are lots of places to get help when it comes to revision, and although your teachers and schools will be working you hard, remember they are also there to support you through the difficulties, so if you’re finding things are getting on top of you, make sure you find a teacher you trust and tell them.

Also, speak to friends about it, it’s likely that they’re feeling the pressure too! And admitting that you’re finding things tough is not a sign of weakness or failure, but a strength. Your friend may be able to recommend something they have done which has worked for them. Or they might be able to help you find advice from someone else, or maybe even just be someone to listen to you as you get things off your chest. All of these will probably be more beneficial than keeping things in!

Finally, your family are there to help too. It may seem like a long time ago, but your parents, grandparents, carers and extended family have probably all experienced what you’re going through, so they can be a good source of support too. Get someone to set you targets, and come and find you to remind you to take breaks, or have them test you if you’re trying to remember things.

Getting help if you’re feeling stressed about exams is important but you might be thinking ‘everyone is in the same boat’ or ‘why should I go and ask for help when no-one else is?’ You might be worried that you’ll be causing a fuss by going and talking to someone about it. Here’s a few signs to look out for which can help to determine whether you’re just suffering from some pre-exam nerves, or whether your revision stress is getting the better of you:

  • Prolonged worry or anxiety over something
  • Tiredness which won’t go away
  • Not wanting to see friends
  • Not being able to concentrate
  • Aches and pains from too much sitting
  • Sore eyes from too much looking at screens and books
  • Not feeling organised
  • Loss of appetite
  • Dehydration

If you notice any of these signs, or there are any changes which you notice which don’t go away, then you may want to speak to someone to try to manage that revision-related stress.

You might not be able to see these things in yourself, but watch out for them in your friends, and make sure they’re looking out for you. If you see your friend’s behaviour change, then you might want to suggest some of the following things which could help reduce stress:

  • Start revision early so that you don’t have to pull any all-nighters!
  • Break up your revision into chunks so that it’s more manageable
  • Revise with friends so that it becomes a more social experience
  • Get with some friends and test each other, help each other to get better
  • Get active! – being active is one of the best ways to avoid stress, even if it’s a short walk every so often
  • Eat well
  • Drink plenty of fluids
  • Find a place that works for you – a quiet place is often best but make sure it’s comfy and you have everything you need
  • Cut yourself off! – don’t just put your phone on silent, leave it in another room so that you’re not tempted to procrastinate on snapchat or instagram.
  • Try not to compare yourself to your friends. If they know something you don’t, there will be something else which you know that they don’t. So don’t stress about it – but a little healthy competition might also be good if you like to work in that way!
  • After the exam, you can’t change anything, try to avoid asking what your friend wrote for an answer. It’s done. Go and relax!

If you’re worried about exams or revision, talk to someone! It won’t be as bad as it first seems and you’ll feel much better for getting it off your chest. When you talk to someone, you’ll probably find that they’re feeling the same thing and you can work your way through it together!