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Coping with exam stress

The summer can be a very stressful time of year as a young person waiting for exam results. 

You are not alone.  Many young people feel under pressure to do well due to a fear of failure, high expectations from family and friends and the need to obtain the results required for your further and higher education or work placement. 

Other causes of stress around exam results time include wanting to obtain results that reflect the work you put into your studies, the fact that your exams results may signify a new phase in your life, particularly if you will be leaving home.  Even if your results are good, you might worry about whether you have chosen the right course.

Recognising stress

Waiting for exam results can be a daunting time and as the date draws nearer, you may find that your stomach starts to churn.  This is completely normal when you are feeling stressed or nervous.  The stress of waiting for exam results could mean that you are experiencing the following:

  • Mood swings
  • Sudden stomach aches or headaches, tightness in your chest or breathing difficulties
  • Over-reacting and being emotional
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Change in appetite
  • Tetchiness
  • Social withdrawal and loss of sense of humour
  • Negative thoughts
  • Trouble concentrating and a lack of enthusiasm
  • Tiredness and feeling run-down

 

Before your exam results are in

In the days leading up to the exam results make sure you look after yourself and try to relax, doing something you enjoy.  Other good ways of dealing with stress and pressure include:

Exercise: You may find it hard to start exercising but hormones such as endorphins released during exercise help you feel better about yourself.
Talk to your friends: Many of your friends will be going through the same thing as you so talk with them about it.
Acknowledge how you are feeling: You may feel anxious, excited, downhearted or queasy.  However you feel, it is important to recognise how you are feeling and express those feelings. If you don't want to talk to someone, consider keeping a journal or expressing it through art.
Realise your own expectations: Take time to consider your realistic prospects for your exam results. What results would you be happy with based on your own goals?  Your result may not be the same across the board – remember everyone has strengths and weaknesses.
Address the unrealistic expectations of others: Dealing with the idealistic expectations of others can be challenging. If you feel your stress is the result of the unrealistic expectations of others, talk to them about what you feel is realistic and why.  Once this expectation is discussed and managed properly, it can be a huge relief.
Consult a GP: If you feel like the stress you are feeling is impacting adversely on your daily life and usual activities, consult your GP for further advice and treatment. 

 

After you get your exam results

Once you get your exam results, the immediate stress may be relieved. Now the wait is over and you can consider your next step. Several people will be celebrating; others may be a little disappointed but it is important to consider the following:

Have the confidence to know that you did your best: It can be easy to look back and think 'I could have done more' but this is not very helpful.
One person's disappointment is another person's success: Remember that everyone has different expectations of themselves and goals in life. Be aware of this during the exam results period.
Keep perspective: Whether you have achieved the results you expected or not, remember that exams are stepping stones to something bigger. If you are disappointed about your results, your goal does not need to change but how you reach that goal may be different.
Your results do not define who you are: Everyone is made up of a lot of different talents. It is important to remember that exams test your skills and knowledge but they are not a judgement about you as a person or a reflection of your self-worth.
Treat yourself: The exam results are a stressful time and the hours of work put into achieving them deserves a reward. Whether you are happy or disappointed with your results, make time to treat yourself. If big celebrations are planned, be careful with your alcohol intake. Visit www.drinkaware.co.uk for more information.
Explore your options for the future: Now that you have your exam results, take the time to consider your options.



Relieving stress

Before the exam results

In the days leading up to the exam results make sure you look after yourself.  Good ways of dealing with stress and pressure include:

Do something relaxing that you enjoy

Taking exercise

Talk to your friends

Acknowledge your feelings

Realise your own expectations

Address the unrealistic expectations of others

Consult your GP for further advice 

Visit the Suffolk Wellbeing Service website for more tips on how to combat stress.

Advice for parents

There are lots of ways you can help your child overcome or cope with stress and anxiety. 

Stress and anxiety advice for parents

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