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!


My Summer Goals

This summer is a busy one for me, and I hope to post as much as I can in between holidaying, kayaking, making social action campaigns and whatever else comes along. And as a keen list-writer, I have compiled the goals I want to achieve over the summer:

  • Drink more water. This one is simple and probably a stereotypical goal, but I think it’s still important. To make me feel healthier and improve my skin.
  • Keep up running- I already go running about once a week, but I often get caught up with other things when I am out of school. So, to stay healthy, I want to keep up the routine. And maybe go swimming, too. 
  • Complete my reading list. This one is hard as it will inevitably grow, but for now this is what I have: 
  1. The Picture of Dorian Gray
  2. Jane Eyre
  3. Wide Sargasso Sea
  4. The Book Thief
  5. Emma (well, finish from where I left it…)
  6. Animal Farm
  7. An Abundance of Katherines
  8. And any YA novels that interest me! (I have already read the Hunger Games and Divergent series recently, so I was thinking the Mortal Instruments and Beautiful Creatures.)
  • Write poetry. And just write in general. Even though it’s something I love to do, sometimes I don’t make enough time to do it.
  • Save up money. For, you know, stuff. Mainly clothes, I’ll admit, and I kind of need a new laptop, too. 
  • Put effort into NCS, making friends and doing activities as best as I can. I’m not very confident at all, so doing this project on my own is a bit of a leap, and I want to push myself to not let my lack of confidence bring me down.
  • Make time for friends- especially the ones that I won’t see at sixth form. It’s important to me to keep the friendship going. So, I’ll be planning cinema trips, swimming, days out and whatever else I can think of.

Now that I reread the list, I seems like quite a lot to do in just over a month. But I’m ready for it. Bring it on, summer!