How to deal with exam season worries: 7 tips from a psychologist

Exam season can cause a lot of stress and anxiety. It can also lead us to feel worn out and exhausted when working.

Psychologist Darren Stanton has shared ways to help cope with exam worries, from journaling to a practice called 'visual motor behaviour rehearsal'.

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1. Turn negative thoughts into positives

Remember - the mind and body are linked so whatever you think about will affect the rest of your body and the things you say to yourself also affect your success. (pictured below)

By saying things like “I don’t want to fail or forget” the brain may do exactly that so it’s better to phrase it positively like “I remember easily and effortlessly”.

2. Use visual motor behaviour rehearsal

A helpful psychological tool can be envisaging yourself and how you’d like the big exam day to go. Imagine the perfect version of you walking into the exam room feeling very calm and relaxed and confident and think about the body language and what that version of yourself is thinking.

Playing potentially stressful situations through your mind like a film is a very powerful technique that may help to maximise success.

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3. Be mindful of caffeine use

When drunk in moderation, caffeine can be very beneficial as an immediate pick-me-up when you are feeling sluggish or low on energy and give you a much-needed boost.

But if you are drinking coffee to help you stay alert in long study hours, and especially if you aren’t a regular consumer of caffeine, it’s important to consume in moderation.

4. Nourishment is key

While revision can end up dominating your schedule and convenience food may be tempting, diet can have a big impact on your eventual performance so taking a little extra time to prepare nutrient-dense meals is wise.

You must keep yourself fueled to power your brain all while getting the right nutrients to be your best self physically and mentally.

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5. Share your worries

Tell someone if you are struggling - a teacher, parent or trusted friend.  It can help if you share your worries and attempt to gain extra support, or even just to hear someone else is feeling the same way as you can be beneficial.

6. Practice self care

It’s important to revise but it’s equally important to look after yourself.  If you’re stressed, hungry and tired then your revision is going to be counter-productive, therefore, make sure you have balance.

If you don’t take the time to look after yourself by doing things like sleeping well and taking small breaks to enjoy a hobby and unwind, you will find it harder to revise. 

7. Keep a journal

Keeping a journal and note down how you feel can be massively beneficial. Like talking with others about your worries, it can help to vent any concerns you may have.