Feeling stressed from exams is normal and can affect anyone, whether your at school, college or university.
Exam stress can be managed by:
- making a revision timetable
- taking regular breaks and getting enough sleep
- keeping hydrated and eating healthy foods
- asking for help if needed
Young people who experience stress may:
- worry a lot
- feel tense
- get lots of headaches and stomach pains
- not sleep well
- be irritable
- lose interest in food or eat more than normal
- not enjoy activities they previously enjoyed
- seem negative and low in their mood
- seem hopeless about the future
Having someone to talk to can help. Speak to friends, family and teachers/tutors if you need support.
Although your exams are important, so is your mental health.
If stress is not managed, it can lead to more serious conditions such as anxiety, panic attacks, sleep problems, self-harm and suicidal feelings.
Anxiety is a feeling of unease, such as worry or fear, that can be mild or severe.
Everyone has feelings of anxiety at some point in their life – for example, you may feel worried and anxious about sitting an exam.
During times like these, feeling anxious can be perfectly normal.
But some people find it hard to control their worries. Their feelings of anxiety are more constant and can often affect their daily lives.
The Mental Health Charity, Mind, offer advice and support on anxiety HERE.
A panic attack is a feeling of sudden and intense anxiety along with physical symtoms such as shaking, feeling disorientated, nausea, rapid, irregular heartbeats, breathlessness and sweating.
Breathing exercise for panic attacks:
If you're breathing quickly during a panic attack, doing a breathing exercise can ease your other symptoms. Try this:
- Breathe in as slowly, deeply and gently as you can, through your nose
- Breathe out slowly, deeply and gently through your mouth
- Some people find it helpful to count steadily from 1 to 5 on each in-breath and each out-breath
- Close your eyes and focus on your breathing
- You should start to feel better in a few minutes. You may feel tired afterwards
- Visit the No Panic website for another breathing exercise to calm panic
Ways to prevent panic attacks:
"You need to try to work out what particular stress you might be under that could make your symptoms worse," says Professor Salkovskis. "It's important not to restrict your movements and daily activities."
- Doing breathing exercises every day will help to prevent panic attacks and relieve them when they are happening
- Regular exercise, especially aerobic exercise, will help you to manage stress levels, release tension, improve your mood and boost confidence
- Eat regular meals to stabilise your blood sugar levels
- Avoid caffeine, alcohol and smoking – these can make panic attacks worse
The Mental Health Chairty, Mind, provide advice and support on panic attacks HERE.
Stress from exams can cause you to have problems sleeping. This may be because you're worrying abbout revision and exams or because you're up at night revising.
There's a close relationship between sleep and mental health. Living with a mental health problem can affect how well you sleep, and poor sleep can have a negative impact on your mental health.
You may find a sleep problem can lead you to:
- have negative thoughts, feel depressed or anxious – if you have little sleep you may feel less able to rationalise worries or irrational thoughts
- feel lonely or isolated – if you feel tired you may not want to be sociable or see friends
- experience psychotic episodes – if you have a psychotic disorder or bipolar disorder, a lack of sleep may trigger mania, psychosis or paranoia, or make existing symptoms worse
Make sure you stick to your revision timetable and don't revise too late at night.
You may find a relaxation routine can help you prepare for sleep. There are several things you can try:
- Do something calming – such as listening to relaxing music, or having a bath.
- Breathing exercises – in a comfortable position, try this: breathe into your belly (not your chest) then out through your nose, making your out-breath longer than your in-breath; repeat until you feel relaxed.
- Muscle relaxation – consciously tense and relax your muscles, one after the other, starting with your toes and working up your body until you reach the top of your head; Progressive Muscle Relaxation is a technique some people find useful – this NHS guidehas further details.
- Visualisation – picture a scene or landscape that has pleasant memories for you.
- Meditation – you can learn meditation techniques at a class or from self-help guides; many people also find mindfulness helpful.
The Mental Healthy Chairty, Mind, provide advice and support on problems sleeping HERE.
What is self-harm?
Self-harm is when you hurt yourself as a way of dealing with very difficult feelings, painful memories or overwhelming situations and experiences. Some people have described self-harm as a way to:
- express something that is hard to put into words
- turn invisible thoughts or feelings into something visible
- change emotional pain into physical pain
- reduce overwhelming emotional feelings or thoughts
- have a sense of being in control
- escape traumatic memories
- have something in life that they can rely on
- punish yourself for your feelings and experiences
- create a reason to physically care for themselves
- expressing suicidal feelings and thoughts without taking their own life
After self-harming you may feel a short-term sense of release, but the cause of your distress is unlikely to have gone away. Self-harm can also bring up very difficult emotions and could make you feel worse.
Even though there are always reasons underneath someone hurting themselves, it is important to know that self-harm does carry risks. Once you have started to depend on self-harm, it can take a long time to stop.
Ways of self-harming can include:
- cutting yourself
- poisoning yourself
- over-eating or under-eating
- biting yourself
- picking or scratching at your skin
- burning your skin
- inserting objects into your body
- hitting yourself or walls
- exercising excessively
- pulling your hair
- getting into fights where you know you will get hurt.
If you self-harm, it is important that you know how to look after your injuries and that you have access to the first aid equipment you need. Lifesigns has information on first aid for self-injury and self-harm.
If you’re concerned about an injury or not sure how to look after it, go and see your GP.
The Mental Health Chairty, Mind, provide advice and support on self-harm HERE.
More advice on mental health can found on our mental health page.