Coping with exam stress

Timely tips from HSE

Exams are an extremely stressful experience for both students and their families. Stress can happen when you feel under threat and unable to meet all of the demands placed upon you. Leaving Cert students in particular can feel a lot of pressure to succeed. Here are some tips to help cope with this stressful time:

Problem solving: Write down everything that is worrying you at the moment. Look through this list and pick out the things that you have the power to control right now. Make the decision to put off thinking about the worries you can’t control for another time, after your exams are finished.

Goal setting: Arrange your list in order of priority, i.e. what needs to happen first. Set yourself goals. Make those goals SMART, i.e. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-Bound. Break bigger goals down into smaller parts. Using a diary or timetabling your study can be very helpful.

Sleep: Although in the run-up to exams it can seem like a good idea to study late into the night, it is really important not to neglect your sleep. When we are low on sleep, our functioning and mood is affected, which can make us feel much more stressed and unable to cope. Make sure to have a good sleep routine and get eight hours’ sleep a night.

Relaxation & Exercise: When we have exams coming up, our thoughts can become consumed with them, which is exhausting. It is really important to have some time away from this. Relaxation is a wonderful way to cope with stress. Engaging in something which you find relaxing can recharge your batteries so you feel better and improve your study and performance. Going for a walk or run, doing some breathing exercises, mindfulness, meditation, yoga and listening to calming music are all great ways to give yourself a break.

Healthy eating: Our brains need nourishment to perform and studying requires a lot of brainpower and energy. It is really important to take the time to have healthy, nutritious meals so that you can have the energy for what you are doing.

Seek support: The pressure we put on ourselves and that we feel from others to succeed can be huge. It is really important to talk to your family and friends about how you feel. If you feel overwhelmed, anxious, worried, lonely, etc., reach out to someone and talk about it. Sharing how you are feeling with others can help make it all seem more manageable. Others can help you to figure out solutions to your stress, or just give you an opportunity to feel listened to and understood.

  For parents, it is important to provide your child with an opportunity to talk about how they feel. In addition to supporting your child with their studies, ask how they are feeling in general and help them to keep things in perspective as they go through this challenging time.