Exams & Wellbeing
We know exams and wellbeing can be tough during exam season, as it can be a really stressful time for young people. The pressure alone can make us think, feel or behave differently.
The RAISE Team at Merseyside Youth Association wanted to meet with young people from across Liverpool to ask them their thoughts about exam stress and what helps.
Here’s what they told us:
Why are exams stressful?
There are many reasons why young people feel exams may be stressful, and this is personal to each individual, but in this image, you can see a few reasons why we might find it a stressful time. Pressure from others, feeling unprepared, comparing yourself to your friends and their knowledge around a topic, worried about the ”what next” transition such as college, university, or being unsure of what’s next, difficulty at home or finding it hard to revise in the home environment, or perhaps you’re a young person with caring responsibilities so revision is a lot easier said than done?
These are all valid reasons for why young people would find exam season stressful.
How do I know if I’m stressed?
We are all different. What stresses one person out may not stress the other person out. This will depend on our individual circumstances, our tolerance for stress at the time, and the resilience factors in our life too. However, sometimes stress can be good for us! It can push us out of our comfort zones and help us to try things we never thought we would achieve things we never thought was possible. Stress, however, can reach a level where it can feel all too overwhelming, and we can feel like we lose our ability to function or cope, and this is when we really need to take a step back and check in with ourselves and seek support. There are different forms of stress:
- Positive stress: These are things that add a bit of pressure on us, but ultimately we feel like we are coping well, learning new coping skills or strategies, overcoming, problem-solving, and developing our resilience.
- Tolerable stress: The stress here can feel a bit more intense and lasts over a longer period of time but is only temporary, and this stress may feel manageable as long as we have the coping strategies in place that work for us and have adults around us that support us.
- Toxic stress: Where we constantly feel stressed and don’t feel we have the support or protection of strong adult relationships. Our stress responses are constantly activated.
During exam season, different exams may push you into different ”zones of stress”. So here are some questions you may want to reflect on…
- Where is my stress at now? (10 being a lot, 1 being fine)
- What exams make me feel most stressed? What exams do I feel the least stressed about? Why is this?
- Who can help me in the run-up to the most stressful one?
- What helps me and wellbeing?
- Can I think of a time when I was under pressure like this and overcame it? How did I do that? Who or what helped me?
- What’s the bigger picture? How will this exam help the ”future me”?
What helps during exam season?
A video created by young people, for young people…
How can I look after my wellbeing during exam season?
There are many wellbeing support services across Liverpool that have trained professionals to support children and young people who may be struggling. You can find many of these services here – Support for young people aged 11-18 Archives – Liverpool CAMHS
However, some things that might help you are the following:
- Scheduling in self-care activities during your revision periods, our young people said sometimes they find it better when they are planning their revision schedule to plan in their breaks and things they like to do first and plan revision around this.
- Make an exam wellbeing plan ( Download here). This helps you to know what helps you for breaks, but also who your go-to people are during this time for support.
- Map out your exam journey, outlining what works for you in the run-up to the exam, on the day of the exam, and after the exam. )(Example below and blank version of this here here)
- Try out different revision techniques such as the Pomodoro Technique (25 mins revision, 5-minute break on a loop), or the Feynman Technique Process (like teaching the topic to someone else and reviewing the gaps).
- Set a reminder on your phone to take breaks
- Write a letter to your future self to open on results day (write one if you pass and one if you fail); better yet, you and a friend write a letter to each other. Exams are important. However, they do not define us, and as Joseph Roberts said, ‘learning is limitless’. This will give you something to support you on results day.
Other helpful resources and videos you may want to watch about exams and wellbeing:
Joseph Roberts – ”Learning is Limitless”; a spoken word piece around exam stress.
Dealing with Exam Stress (1) (vimeo.com)