Lyndsey Thomson is Careers & Outreach Coordinator at the Society and one of our Mental Health First Aiders. Here, she shares her top tips to help you reduce the stress and anxieties brought on by exams, deadlines and dissertations.
April is Stress Awareness Month. It’s also the month in which many of our student members are required to submit their dissertations and sit exams. Some of us cope well and, in some cases, thrive under pressure. On the other hand, for many of us, exams and imminent deadlines can cause stress and anxiety.
Pressure and stress are part and parcel of day-to-day life and can be good for us. However, these feelings can, in some cases, start to feel overwhelming and this is when the problems can start. This month, many of you may have noticed your stress levels rising which, if not dealt with, can have a negative impact on your ability to perform at your best.
Whilst it’s been a long time since I sat exams (and I mean a long time!), the principles of best practice for revision and sitting exams remain the same and there are a number of things that you can do (and a number of things you shouldn’t) to help you cope the best you can.
A great place to start is to draw up a timetable for revision!
It may sound like a no-brainer, but this something that many of us wouldn’t think about doing and it doesn’t just relate to exam revision – organising your day into timeslots can and does increase productivity. Plan your day so that you know what you will be revising and when, but be careful not to set yourself unrealistic goals – this will help to reduce the chance of ending your day disappointed.
Remember to schedule yourself regular breaks!
Make a cuppa, get some fresh air or exercise, chat to a friend or family member. Whatever you decide to do, it’s important to ensure that you make time for yourself and do something that you enjoy. Taking regular breaks can help reduce distractions when you are revising and, speaking of distractions, remember to also mute your social media notifications – your newsfeed can wait!
Starting to sound like my mum now, but, as well as taking regular breaks, it’s important to try to eat and sleep well too.
Make sure you have a proper breakfast before you start revising, remember to drink plenty of water to keep yourself hydrated and try to avoid lots of caffeine and alcohol.
Relaxing before you go to bed can also help you get a good night’s sleep. Stop revising and do something 'nice' but try to avoid the endless 'scrolling through social media for hours' temptation. Read a book (but not one you’ve been reading for revision!), listen to music, go for a walk or have a bath.
This next one can be quite difficult and is human nature, but try to avoid comparing yourself to others.
What works for your friends might not work for you – we all learn and revise in our own ways. It’s important to find a way that suits your style best and, after your exam is done, move on! Try not to scrutinise every answer you wrote in comparison to other’s. By this time, it’s too late and worrying won’t help.
Lastly, it’s helpful to try to maintain perspective!
Whilst they are important, exams and the grades we achieve are just a small part of who we are and what we can offer. We’re all human and we all have ‘bad days’ but try not to be too hard on yourself. Be compassionate, be empathetic and be supportive of yourself – put simply, be your own best friend!
If you do feel that you could benefit from additional support however, remember to reach out. As well as help on offer within your university, check out Lawscot Wellbeing for details of organisations who can offer assistance or contact Student Minds.