Jack Edwards, UK male student blogger and vlogger, shares his top ten exam self-care tips and techniques for mental health awareness week! If you suffer with anxiety or exam stress, this one's for you!

7th May 2018

Hello and welcome back to my blog – long time no see, eh? This week is Mental Health Awareness week, which, incidentally, coincides with the start of this year’s GCSE, A Level, and undergraduate exams. So, instead of actually revising for my exams, I thought I’d try to fuse these two events in a perfect coupling. Hopefully it’ll last longer than Amber and Kem. 

 

The exam period is an incredibly stressful time and can seriously impact your mental health. We spend such a long time cramming our brains full of knowledge, that we forget to actually look after them, and it proves detrimental. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. You wouldn’t dream of running onto a football pitch with a broken leg, so why do we continue to put ourselves through a study #SESH with a brain that isn’t feeling 100%? With this in mind, I’ve compiled a list of 25 self-care tips specifically tailored around exams – I hope they help!

 

  1. Type out everything that is bugging you and watch it float away: There’s this funky little website which allows you to type away all of your problems, press enter, and watch them all fade into the abyss. I know it sounds silly, but it’s really cathartic to unload everything that is on your mind and then watch it all disappear. Try it out HERE

  2. Parkrun: This is a weekly event held in most towns and cities around the UK. It’s a 5k run (just over 3 miles) but has a lovely atmosphere, and there’s absolutely no pressure to run quickly or even to finish the race. It’s completely free and your time only gets logged if you finish, so no-one will ever know if you don’t make it! I find that it really clears my head to focus solely on running for a little while, and I feel so fresh and motivated for the rest of the day.

  3. Plan something to do before bed: Sometimes it feels like you should work until you collapse and, if you don’t, you’re not working hard enough. I try to always plan something relaxing for the hour or half an hour before I attempt to sleep, to wind down my brain and focus on something I love. This could be a TV show or some YouTube videos, or something that isn’t on a screen like reading a book.

  4. Make check-lists with smaller goals: Try to break down all of the huge things you need to achieve into tiny little goals. Instead of deciding to ‘make flash-cards on Section A of the textbook’ make a check-list which breaks this down even further (i.e. make flash cards from pages 1-3’, pages 4-6, pages 7-9, etc.). Also add mundane tasks to your daily plan like ‘wake up’ or ‘have lunch’ and tick those things off too. It’ll make you feel far more productive, and it’s satisfying being able to tick each little bit off.

  5. Alphabet relaxation: If you’re ever feeling panicked or overwhelmed, stop, take some time to yourself, and focus your brain on something simple. One useful way of doing this is to think of a category (i.e. capital cities, countries, or animals) and then go through the alphabet, letter by letter, and think of something in that category that starts with each letter. You end up focusing so much on trying to think of a word that starts with each letter that you give yourself a break from all the other things whizzing around in your brain.

  6. Don’t check social media as often: When revising for long periods of time, I find myself glancing at my phone far too often, just to check that tweet, or that Instagram post, or that video… you get it. Instead of having your phone next to you whilst you revise, put it somewhere you can’t see it, then schedule in half an hour or an hour just to scroll through everything without feeling guilty about it.

  7. Leave catch-up slots in your weekly plan: If you like to plan out your revision or work, make sure to leave some slots of time in your week to catch-up on all of those things that you couldn’t quite get finished. Revision plans are great and I’d highly recommend them, but sometimes we underestimate how long things will take, so make sure your plan can be adjusted and leaves time to tie up loose-ends, otherwise it’ll only stress you out

  8. Really focus on something menial: Take one of those really tiny mundane tasks that you do all the time, and really focus on it. This is especially applicable for brushing your teeth or making a hot drink – little things that you could do without even thinking. Instead, focus on it in great depth and ONLY THINK ABOUT THAT ONE THING. Sorry for shouting.

  9. Trace your hand: Look at one of your hands, and use a finger from your other hand to trace its outline. As you move up each finger, inhale, and as you go down, exhale. This is really easy to do, and will help you calmly focus yourself again, especially in an exam

  10. Make plans and schedule things to look forward to: Don’t completely change your lifestyle just because it’s exam season. Go to the pub, go out for dinner, go and play that game of rugby, or go and meet your friends for a walk. You still need to relax, enjoy yourself, and LIVE. You are number one, and your mental health is so much more important than passing that exam, so keep living life to the full and coexist with your exams, rather than allowing them to take over.

By Jack Edwards