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!

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Birthday Cake and Eating Whole Pizzas

I’m finding it hard to think of a particular meal that I really enjoyed. I am conscious of trying not to sound like I have (or have had) eating disorders, because I haven’t, but I’ve never really been into food the way most people are. Whenever I am anxious or stressed, the first problem I have is a loss of appetite. Even when I am happy and healthy, I never eat much-I’ve always had a small appetite. It is only on the odd occasion where I can finish a whole pizza on my own and shout ‘Yeah! I just ate a whole pizza!” Of course, I like treats like chocolate and cake, though.

So, I’d probably have to say my favourite childhood food was birthday cake. That smell of blown-out candles triggers my memory to relive the moments of celebration, and party hats, the smiling faces of friends and family. Every time I look through my photo albums, I always stop for longer at the picture of me and my grandpa at my sixth or seventh birthday and smile. We are so happy in that moment. It almost makes me sad to think about how long ago that photo was taken; so much has changed since then.

When I think about birthday cakes, the image of my little sister’s face slathered in chocolate icing appears in my mind. And with it, her wide pearly grin. I think of my mum and all those shopping trips for party food (and obviously, the big cake), all the setting up of the living room. For me, my brother and sister, she must have lit thousands of candles over the years. Now I remember her in every memory, always busy helping make that memory special, I feel that I was never grateful enough for everything she did.

Thanks Mum, for nearly seventeen birthday cakes and so much more.