How I Cope With Stress: Exams

It’s the night before an important event: a big exam, a major presentation, your wedding. How do you calm your nerves in preparation for the big day?

I’ve had a lot of nerves to cope with this year: 21 exams, a speech at prom to around 250 people, doing a summer program with new people I’d never met before, starting sixth form. So, I can say that I have developed a few different ways of coping with stress the night before. Most of these ideas are for during an exam season.

For each exam, I would compile a summary of all the notes at least a week before the exam, and I would spend no more than half an hour reading through these notes the night before the big day. This seemed to reassure me that I had learned everything, as each point I went over I would think ‘oh, I know that!’. Any more reading would make me worry and panic that I hadn’t revised enough (when I REALLY had!).

I must admit that I didn’t do this enough, but going for runs or walks really helps to physically deal with nerves, or any negative emotion. I don’t have a bike, but bike rides are just as good for you. Don’t overdo it, though, 10-15 minutes a couple of times a week is fine.

Staying healthy always helped me because it gave me a positive attitude, which made me more confident in myself. So, I like to have smoothies and try to stick to 5-a-day. A lot of people my age don’t have breakfast, and it is something I still struggle with, but forcing myself to eating something, anything, rather than nothing at all often helps. Attempting to do exams or the like running on no energy is going to be really hard, so I think this is one of the most important tips.

But, in terms of the night before, eating a filling dinner means you’re more likely to sleep well. A treat like chocolate or biscuits can’t hurt either, and is a nice comfort to help relax. I usually go for cheesecake, ice cream or Oreos.

A long bath soak with a book or music, or both, always seems to help me. I usually do this before I go to bed because I feel relaxed so I’m less likely to stay up worrying.

Doing something you enjoy can distract you from nerves. Personally, I write in my journal or a blog post, watch youtube videos or TV, read and listen to music.

I learned that during the exam season, you have to be selfish. Friends become a lower priority, and that’s ok because you have plenty of time in the holidays to make up for not seeing them as much. My advice is to avoid social media, especially Facebook the night before an exam. Talking to people in the same situation can stress you out more if they are struggling to cope. Also, don’t feel like you have to reassure everyone else; just focus on yourself. This is what I mean about being selfish. It’s not being mean, it’s just allowing yourself to do the best you can, which is what you deserve.

Though, if you’re feeling so nervous that it’s making you upset you must talk to someone. Let it out to a family member, teacher or a friend. Make sure you don’t suffer in silence if nerves are severely affecting you.

Getting a good night’s sleep is often really hard to do because nerves keep you up, but it’s vital to do well the next day. So, some light exercise like I mentioned is good to wear you out a bit, so you’re more sleepy. Then, I like to listen to music for a while and read in bed. It’s very tempting, but going on phones or laptops makes you less likely to sleep because of the white light. If I want to do that, I try and finish browsing the internet or whatever earlier in the evening. I read until I feel pretty tired and then I turn off the light and try to go to sleep. If I’m honest, this doesn’t always work and I lie awake for a while. But reading before is better than spending hours lying awake, stressing about the next day.

Often thoughts that keep you up at night are negative and depict the worst case scenario. Tell yourself this and focus on something else. I usually try to imagine a happy, peaceful scene, like an ideal holiday or an event I’m looking forward to.

I hope this helps anyone with a big day coming up!

Singing and Sausage-rolling, a vital part of best friendship

Do you — or did you ever — have a Best Friend? Do you believe in the idea of one person whose friendship matters the most? Tell us a story about your BFF (or lack thereof).

I DO have a best friend. Though my experience of best friends hasn’t always been great. My first best friend moved to a different school, and when I moved school too, the most we talked was through postcards and birthday cards. Then, when I settled into my new school, my next best friend decided to move even further away-to Australia. The one after that was even worse. She turned out to be a bully. Thanks to her constantly comparing the both of us, putting me down and becoming increasingly nasty I lost confidence, which has taken years to get back. But I learned a lot from that experience, and I’m almost glad she was so nasty as it made me tougher and stronger emotionally. My current best friend took me all of those best friends to get to, but she was worth it (however cheesy that sounds). We are both pretty shy, which meant it took us a while to become close. But when we stuck with each other as people fought and went from different friendship groups, it became obvious that we would be friends for life. So, thanks to Ellie, I do believe in the idea of one person whose friendship matters the most. Because it means there is always someone to rely on for support and to tell the secrets that are too hard to tell your family or friends that don’t understand you as much. I still have a close knit group of friends, who I get along really well with. And I think that it’s important to be in a group as well, because sticking with one best friend only can isolate you from making other friendships. 

Ellie and I met in the last years of primary school and managed to stay friends until secondary school. It wasn’t until the last three years that I became really close with her. Our shared love of Taylor Swift brought us together. We went to see her Speak Now tour, which was our first concert at age thirteen. And this year we saw Taylor again, age sixteen, but at the 02 in London, which was AMAZING. 

We’re the kind of friends who don’t need anything fancy to have fun. Once, I rolled down her back garden in a blanket in an attempt to be a sausage roll.  We laugh at each other-well, Ellie laughs at me when I fall off my bike. And we cry on each others’ shoulders a lot. Which is useful when you’re a teenager and there are a lot of tears to cry. I do crazy stuff for her, most of the time without thinking. Like singing in front of too many people-bearing in mind I can’t sing, to try and get her to sing to ANYONE. (She sang to me later on, followed by tears of course). Sorry Taylor Swift, I didn’t mean to murder any of your songs. 

To anyone that doesn’t have a best friend, my advice is not to worry about getting one. Try and get into a small group of friends who you can trust, then someone you probably didn’t expect will become closer to you and turn out to be your best friend. You don’t necessarily need a best friend to be happy, but once you have a true best friend you’ll know because you won’t be able to let them go.