How to weather the ups and downs of studying away from home.
6 ways to manage your mental health during exam time
Exam season is one of the most stressful times of the academic year, but there are things you can do to avoid burnout. Here are our tips.
1. Make a plan
The first step on any exam revision journey is to make a plan for how you’ll tackle it.
Figure out how much time you have until each exam and how much of that you can dedicate to each subject. Break it down as much as you can, topic by topic.
While this might sound like a lot of work, it’s worth it. One of the most overwhelming things about revising for exams is that feeling of sitting in front of your computer or a pile of books and not having any idea where to start, or if you even have time to get it all done.
A clear plan of when you’ll cover each subject – complete with check-in points for practice exams – can help you avoid this, and make you feel more confident throughout the revision process.
2. Make time for real breaks – seriously
The most important thing that you can factor into your revision plan is breaks. No, we’re not joking.
Studies show that taking purposeful breaks of anywhere between 5 and 60 minutes can improve your energy, productivity, and ability to focus.
We don’t mean a break to scroll on your phone, either. Researchers asked a group of undergraduates to solve a set of challenging word puzzles and found that when they were allowed to take breaks to use their phones, their efficiency nosedived!
Whether it’s by stopping work after a certain time and having the evening to watch Netflix, or scheduling peaceful walks during the day, carving out time for yourself to refresh your mind will only get more important the closer you get to exams.
Remember: the times when you feel like you can least afford a break are often the ones when you most need one. Even a 10-minute walk in the fresh air can help clear your head.
3. Form a study group
Exam season is much less difficult when you’ve got a group of people around you for support.
Not only can a study group keep you motivated, but they can help you take breaks when you need to, calm you down when you’re feeling stressed, and be there to tell you if they think you’re not looking after yourself.
Why not ask your fellow Cheveners if they want to head to the library together?
4. Listen to your body
We know how tempting it is when you’re in the zone with revision to eat solely from the library vending machines and forget the last time you had a glass of water. But it’s not good for your body, and that means it’s not good for your brain, either!
Eat when you’re hungry and rest when you’re tired. Make time for proper meals and drink plenty of water while you’re revising.
Cooking a hot meal for yourself can be a great way to take a break, and particularly as an international student, eating a meal you know and love from home can be the perfect comfort when you’re feeling nervous about exams.
5. Protect your mindset before and after each exam
We’ve all been there – you’re standing outside the exam hall, shuffling through your notes, and someone just as stressed as you are is peppering you with questions and making you feel even more panicked.
The final minutes before you start an exam can be some of the most nerve-wracking, and it’s time that’s best spent calming yourself and getting ready to focus. If someone nearby is stressing you out, move away from them or let them know that they’re stressing you out.
The same goes for after exams, too. Once you leave the exam hall, there’s nothing more you can do, so don’t spend time dissecting each answer with your classmates. Have some well-earned rest instead.
6. If your nerves get out of control, reach out
Finally, a lot of the stress you will feel around exam time is totally normal and rational. You want to do well, and if you’re a Chevening Scholar, you likely have high standards that you set for yourself that you want to reach.
However, it’s also important to check in with yourself every now and then to ask if your worries are getting out of control.
If you’re not doing things you would usually do to look after yourself, like eating, sleeping, or seeing friends, or if you find yourself feeling panicked, please reach out to someone to support you.
This could be a friend, a family member, or a university support officer. The UK mental health charity Mind offer a phone helpline, or you can text “shout” to 85258 to text with a Shout mental health support volunteer.
Good luck and look after yourselves this exam season!
By Amy Hughes
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