Freshly cut grass always reminded me of two things growing up: GAA (which I loved) and exams (which I dreaded). It’s now the time of year where students across the country are pre-occupied with study and worry to various degrees. For some the balance is kept in check, but for others the worry can become a bit too much. Lack of sleep, no appetite, and a general anxiety can creep in. Trying to keep up revision and submitting essays is tricky if you are struggling to stay healthy and happy.
So what can you do to relieve the pressure? There are hundreds (if not thousands) of websites offering tips and tricks, but here is what works for me:
- As much as possible, try to stay organised. Maintaining lists and records work to alleviate stress and anxiety in almost every instance. Exam pressure is no different. So, whether you use lists or bullet points, or have a calendar that keeps you focussed and on top of things……all of these are useful in their own right. Even the act of writing things down can provide a temporary reprieve from the anxiety associated with a task or topic.
- Celebrate your successes. Exams years are marathons as opposed to sprints. They can be full of milestones (mock exams, oral/aural exams, practical exams, continuous assessments etc.), and reaching each milestone is an opportunity to release the pressure valve slightly. Even smaller achievements such as grasping a concept you’ve been trying to get a handle on, or covering off on a piece of a course curriculum provides a chance for a mini reward (try to keep these rewards healthy and nourishing, as opposed to a 24-hour binge of Netflix with no sleep, or something similar!)
- Get outside! Being in nature is one of the greatest healers. In my experience a jog on the beach, a game of football, a walk in the forest or simply throwing a blanket out in the park and sitting for a few hours can all help calm the mind and recharge the batteries.
- Stay connected. This is a difficult period in your life. Share what you are feeling with someone close to you. Spend time with friends and family, and if it helps tell them about the things that are challenging you. The old adage of ‘a problem shared is a problem halved’ might not be entirely correct, but there is huge merit in seeking a supportive ear. In doing so make sure the ‘ear’ that is listening to you is one that will accept you and your problems. There is nothing quite as grating as someone trying to wrap a silver lining around your problem. See the attached clip for a humorous but fantastic view of what ‘empathy’ is. Brené Brown on Empathy>> https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Evwgu369Jw
- Look after your body. Eating well and sleeping well are vital at times of stress and high workload. You’ll have seen and heard it all before, but the simply things do work…..regular sleep times, limited use of devices prior to bed, eat the type of food that tastes good but also provides nourishment.
Finally, remember that although they seem like the most important thing right now, exams are only the beginning of the next stage of the journey, and not the end of it. Be gentle with yourself, and manage the expectations you put on yourself. Whether you are at Junior Cert stage, or finishing up your degree or professional exams, you are far more valuable than an exam score.
The article is written by Noel, Low Cost Counsellor at The DMC Clinic. If you would like to discuss professional support on any of the topics mentioned above and feel they are impacting your mental health, please contact The DMC Clinic to arrange an appointment.