Home Mental Health & Well-Being How Young People Can Manage the Increasing Stress of Exams and Safeguard Their Mental Health

How Young People Can Manage the Increasing Stress of Exams and Safeguard Their Mental Health

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Dealing with exam stress is a challenge all young people will have to face and some will be able to navigate the strain with less difficulty than others. But this issue is becoming a growing source of strain for many and can often develop into more serious long-term mental health conditions if not tackled and talked about. This is even more important post-Covid.

In 2022, GCSE and A-level exams returned after a break due to the Covid pandemic. Childline delivered 2,000 counselling sessions during this time, with children struggling with exam stress. This was a 10% increase from the year before.

44% of these counselling sessions took place in April, May, and June, so now is the key time to put in place tools that young people can access to help cope better.
Exam stresses cause irritability, sleepless nights, forgetfulness, and a lack of concentration.

To help you through this difficult and stressful time, here are a few of my own tips as well as those from my daughter, Samantha, who recently completed her own degree in stage and media:

Look after yourself

During stressful times, it is particularly important to look after yourself; after all, your lifestyle directly affects your mental and physical wellbeing. A few ways in which you can look after yourself might be by taking a walk to clear your head, reading a book you enjoy, eating nutritious foods, or even just taking a relaxing bath. One of the most important ways to feel your best is by getting into a regular sleeping pattern. Many students can forget the importance of sleep for good mental health, getting lost in time with revision. You can set a time on your phone 30 minutes before you are due to go to bed to give you plenty of time to wind down before getting a good night’s sleep.

Be organised

Being organised can relieve you of such stress in the long term. We are all guilty of thinking, “I will do it tomorrow”, but then tomorrow comes, and you most probably forget. There is so much going on in your head with exams and revision, that it is so easy for things to slip through your mind. A good idea might be to buy a whiteboard, so you can write anything that you need to remember down and then there is no wasted time trying to recall everything you need to do. Also, being prepared for your exams the evening before, such as by getting your bag ready, checking that you have everything and checking exam times, means you wake up with a free and less stressful mind.

Having plans for after your exams

Exams and education take up most of your younger life, so what when it is all over? Having something ready for when you finish will help to lessen the anxiety of what to do next and will re-focus your mind onto something else while you either wait for your exam results or while you think about what the next stage in your life might be. Volunteering at a charity, or even just a part-time job will help you keep a daily routine and broaden your experiences for the future.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help

exam times can be super stressful at the best of times, let alone for someone suffering from a mental illness. If you are feeling overwhelmed and struggling to complete tasks on time, speak to someone in the school/college/university who can help you. Sometimes allowances can be made to give you more time to reach deadlines. If you do not let anyone know you are struggling, no one can help, so taking that first step can really help you through that stressful period.

Talk to someone

A lot of the time, there are other people around you who are feeling and experiencing the same thing as you. Sometimes just talking about it and knowing that others feel the same can really help. It is always good to talk to someone you trust who will listen and support you through, even if it is a classmate, so that you can support each other through the exam period.




Lynn Crilly is an author, counsellor, and mental health advocate.

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