Mental Health vs. School
Mental health is still considered a relatively new topic that emerges from the depths of taboo. Not so long ago, it was even considered a shame to talk about our mental state. Even though we use the term to refer to a person’s psychological wellbeing, it can still bring negative connotations to the discussion. Hence the need to talk about it more and make it a more normal, usual topic to approach.
Mental health can be challenged in many ways during our high school years. Be that stress, self-image and self-esteem issues, bullying, the school’s competitive nature, or anything in between, these things can take a toll on us if we’re not careful. However, there are always ways to nurture wellbeing in schools and today we will tackle the issue of stress – caused by exams, more exactly.
Understanding the Impact of Exam Stress
Exam Stress, if we were to define it, is the kind of feeling that makes people anxious and worried about their future results. The worry can come from external factors, such as parents, competitive classmates, etc. or it can also be internal pressure caused by general feelings of insecurity, not being good enough, etc.
Ways to recognise if you are dealing with exam stress are to ask yourself:
Am I sleeping okay? Do I feel rested when I wake up?
Am I eating well? Stress can affect eating habits.
Can I focus when I study?
Stress can affect us in many ways and we might not even recognise where it’s all coming from at first, but it is important to know that there are always ways to manage these feelings.
Tactics to Deal with Exam Stress
As we were just talking about ways to manage stress-related feelings, we thought about listing some of them here, for those in need:
Self-care can mean different things to everyone, but generally speaking, here we refer to doing things that make us feel happy. Do I feel like I studied too much today, and I deserve a nice batch and some relaxing time reading my favourite book? Totally deserved! Do I feel like a certain day has been too harsh on me, and studying is just too much? Skip that day. If we force ourselves to study or do things in general, when we are not feeling okay or up for it, it most probably won’t bring out the best in us.
We need to give ourselves space to recover and recharge every now and then, and we need to be very careful about the signals that we get from our bodies.
Create a Study Routine
To prevent study burnout or sleepless nights, it might be best if we can create a study routine to make our life easier. I remember when my parents would send me to study, and I hated it! If we want to skip the step of being sent to study, by our parents or ourselves, etc. we might create a routine that will come naturally to follow once we’re accustomed to it.
Some useful revision tips here can be to try breaking up the subjects into days and timetables so you know how much time to allocate to each subject, and when! Be flexible with it though, as sometimes you might feel like studying one subject over another – as long as you study and you’re focused, it’s a win!
More tips can be: setting realistic goals for each day, taking regular breaks, and finding your own personal way of studying that works best for you – for example, some people are visual learners while others learn better if they read things aloud. Find your way!
Manage Exam Anxiety
Here we need to think about the fact that results aren’t everything. To make sure we’re content with ourselves, we just need to make sure we gave it our best effort, and we need to treat each experience as an opportunity to learn how to be better next time.
Apart from now, these grades won’t really matter in the future anyway, so we need to focus on the bigger picture: learning for ourselves, not for the grades we receive, or not to please our parents. Once we’ve made peace with our reason to study and we’ve accepted that we cannot control the outcome of the exam results, all that is left for us is to try and make the most of it.
Some practical ways to cope with Exam Anxiety are yoga, practising deep breathing, listening to encouraging podcasts or even practising positive self-talk.
Don’t be afraid to ask for support
Asking for support is only natural. Just as we would ask for help if we have a flat tire and no cell battery, it’s also normal to reach out to people when we feel stuck. Here we can talk about reaching out to our parents, our teachers, tutors, or even friends. Some people, for example, find that studying in study groups increases their motivation for learning or helps them remember things better.
Maintain a Positive Mindset
After all, we discussed how grades do not define us. We should look at exams as a step forward in our academic, soon-to-be professional career.
Flexibility is one of the main skills we rely on and value here at Spark. Being flexible with our expectations is just the way to embrace these exams. The results will always come as a surprise, and we should remember to try and learn something from our experiences, with the scope in mind to improve the future experiences we will encounter in life.
Things to take away
In this exam session, you can learn how to manage your expectations and stress levels, by following these few steps. At Spark we focus very much on our students’ wellbeing – moreover, Wellbeing is one of the 4 main strands that our Educational Model is based upon.
We believe that schools that offer support for their students’ wellbeing are actually raising the capable and balanced leaders of tomorrow. A positive school culture contributes a lot to the wellbeing of the students who study there, and as we know, change always happens or starts happening from within.
Sign up for our newsletter to learn more about what Spark students do for their wellbeing, and join us at Spark if you want to be part of a balanced, positive and inclusive school culture that is tailored to every student’s needs!
How to nurture your wellbeing and manage exam stress FAQ
How can I manage exam stress?
Prioritize self-care, create a study routine, seek support and don’t forget to keep a positive mindset in order to manage exam stress while maintaining academic performance.
What are practical ways to cope with exam anxiety and stay calm during exams?
Practice deep breathing, mindfulness, and positive self-talk. Take breaks, seek support, and adequately prepare to cope with exam anxiety and stay calm.
How can I maintain a positive mindset and stay motivated during exams?
Refrain from negative thoughts, embrace a growth mindset, and have realistic expectations. Or better – no expectations at all. Practice self-compassion, engage in self-care, and celebrate progress to maintain a positive mindset and stay motivated.