Coping with Exam Stress

When you’re gearing up for exams, it’s quite common to feel the weight of stress and anxiety. The pressure to excel can become quite overwhelming, potentially leading to feelings of low mood or frustration. These emotions might even start affecting your sleep and eating patterns, making it challenging to maintain relationships and pursue your interests. It’s crucial to recognise that it’s okay to feel this way—many others do too.


At Mid and North East Essex Mind, we’ve compiled some suggestions to help you navigate through exam-related stress and prioritise your well-being.


Practical Tips for Before, During, and After Exams


Before Exams:


Craft a Study Plan: Break down your study sessions into manageable chunks that suit your preferences. Instead of striving for perfection, aim for what works for you. Remember, a lengthy to-do list or attempting to cover too many subjects in a day can hinder your progress.


Take Breaks: Don’t forget to give your brain some downtime. Short breaks can enhance your focus, and your timetable should incorporate plenty of these pauses. Taking a nap, especially after a taxing school day, is perfectly acceptable.


During Exams:


Stay Calm: If nervousness sets in, practice slow breathing to calm yourself. Discover a breathing or grounding technique that resonates with you, such as the square breathing method or the 5-4-3-2-1 method. In the exam hall, remind yourself to take a moment and approach each question one at a time.


Manage Time: Allocate your time wisely among questions to ensure you have ample time for everything. Your teachers may offer suggestions on time distribution for different sections or questions. If you find yourself struggling, consider skipping ahead to questions you can confidently answer.


After Exams:


Be Kind to Yourself: Exiting the exam hall can be as nerve-wracking as entering it. Regardless of how you performed, acknowledge that you did your best in that moment. Avoid being too hard on yourself, and refrain from discussing or comparing answers with friends if it adds to your worries.


Relax: Engage in activities you enjoy post-exams to unwind and recharge. Whether it’s reading a book, going for a walk, or spending time with friends, give yourself a well-deserved mental break.


Taking Care of Yourself


In times of struggle, prioritising self-care is essential. Here are some actions you can take:


Sleep Well: Prioritise your sleep, aiming for 7 to 9 hours each night. Quality sleep enhances brain function, and you can find more tips on improving sleep here.


Eat Well: Maintain consistent mealtimes with nutritious food to fuel your brain and body. This aids in concentration, stress reduction, and sustained energy. Hydration is equally crucial—drink plenty of water.


Stay Active: Physical activity can uplift your mood and alleviate stress. Whether it’s a team sport, yoga, a solo walk, or dancing, find a physical activity you enjoy.


Do Things You Love: Amidst stress, our passions sometimes take a backseat. Investing time in activities that bring joy or relaxation can restore balance. Creative outlets like drawing, writing, or playing a musical instrument are productive ways to channel emotions.


Practice Self-Compassion: Being kind to ourselves during difficult times is challenging but vital. Remember that you’re not alone, and speak to yourself as you would to a friend. Accept your limitations and forgive yourself for mistakes.


Seeing the Bigger Picture


Exams are a part of your journey, not the entire story. While societal messages may emphasise their importance, they don’t define your entire identity or future.




You’re More Than Grades: Beyond test scores, you possess unique skills and talents. Life offers numerous opportunities where your abilities, personality, and attitude play pivotal roles.


Think Long-Term: Envision a future beyond exams. Building strong relationships, caring for others, creating, or bringing joy to people’s lives are alternative paths toward your long-term goals.


In handling exam stress, prioritise self-care, adopt practical tips that resonate with you, and always remember your inherent worth and potential. You’re not alone—don’t hesitate to seek support from friends, family, or professionals.

You’ve got this!

Contact us!