Whether you’re at college, university or doing an apprenticeship, taking exams and making decisions about your future can be stressful. It’s OK to feel unsettled or like your mental health is suffering at times like this.
Read the top tips in this article to help you through some of the big moments you’ll face in life. And use the links to further resources, alongside details of who to contact if you need help with your mental health or wellbeing.
It’s normal to feel some stress around exam and revision time. Two thirds of eight to 17-year-olds surveyed in 2020 said they felt most stressed about homework and/or exams – ahead of worrying about what other people think of them and bullying.
While exam stress can make you feel anxious or depressed, it’s nothing to be scared of. It’s a normal reaction to what’s going on. And some people even need a little stress to get them motivated. It’s about knowing what works for you, before you get to a point where you feel overwhelmed.
1. Try not to compare yourself
Shantanu Kundu is founder of Be Free Campaign – which aims to demolish the stigma around mental health. He’s also a medical student. Shantanu says the first step in managing exam stress is to not judge yourself against others: ‘Everyone learns in different ways and at different paces.’ Focus on what you want to achieve, not what others around you are doing.
2. Create a strategy
Create a timetable and a plan of what you want to do, and how you will manage that time effectively. Remember that everyone learns in different ways. Shantanu suggests trying a technique called active recall and spaced repetition, which involves spreading out your learning over a longer period of time.
3. Study together
Youth mental health charity YoungMinds suggests forming a study group with friends, which can help with making revision less intimidating. And don’t forget to take breaks.
4. Talk to people you trust
YoungMinds says: ‘If you’re struggling, it can help to let your friends and family know so they can offer support'. It’s completely normal to feel stressed and more moody during exam time. Talking to people can help you offload, and realise you’re not alone.
5. Keep things in perspective
YoungMinds suggest making a list of all the things you want from life that don’t relate to exams. Shantanu advises focusing on what you want and your goals, and trying to resist parental and other pressure: ‘Don’t expect to be getting A*s when you only need a B. Try and get those Bs and then spend time doing extracurricular stuff and managing your mental health. I think that sometimes is more important than getting high grades’.
6. Don’t forget to have fun
It’s important to make sure you also find time to do things you enjoy, even if you’re very busy. One YoungMinds activist said: ‘Constantly revising without a break can make you feel emotionally and physically drained, so it’s crucial that you take time to step back and do something that you enjoy’.
- Call 999 if your own or someone else’s life is at risk, or go to your local A&E. A mental health emergency should be taken as seriously as a physical one.
- Call 111. They may be able to put you in touch with a mental health nurse over the phone or arrange an emergency appointment. You can also call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 if you are in Wales.
- Call or text the helpline numbers below, or call a local NHS urgent mental health line to get help closer to where you are (in England).