Exam stress Archives - Jigsaw

How to stop stressing about exams

It’s not unusual to feel a bit stressed as it comes up to exam time. This can be a good thing sometimes as it motivates us to study. 

For some of us though, exam stress can really interfere with our day-to-day lives and hinder work and concentration levels.

Covid-19 brought about many changes for everyone. Students, in particular, were heavily impacted by the closure of schools and colleges, and this hasn’t helped the last few years.

Girl with head in hands trying to study

Leaving Cert exam stress

If you’re feeling anxious about the Leaving Cert, you’re not alone.

In 2021, students were given the choice between sitting the exam, receiving an accredited grade, or both. Approximately 58% chose to sit the exam in some capacity.

2022 sees the Leaving Cert return to a more traditional format while incorporating more choice for students. This document has the adjusted assessment arrangements for taking state exams this June. The adjustments are designed to take account of the disrupted learning experienced by students during the pandemic.

The updated system might cause extra stress for some, in an already stressful year. Find tips for managing anxiety here. We also have more advice below.

In this article, you will find:

hand holding pencil writing on a piece of paper

Sleep and mental health

We all need our sleep. Regular, long stretches of undisturbed quality sleep is essential for our mental as well as physical health.

“Sleep is the single most effective thing we can do to reset our brain and body health each day”, according to Professor Matthew Walker, neuroscientist, and author of ‘Why We Sleep’.

Many of the young people who attend Jigsaw face-to-face services report sleep difficulties as one of the issues they are facing.

In this article, you will learn:

How much sleep do young people need?

Our sleeping rhythms and needs change as we get older. Although we may feel we can manage with a certain amount of sleep, there are recommended times for overall health.

Teenagers need between eight to ten hours sleep a night, though they are more likely to get around seven. Adults require a bit less; between eight and nine hours. These guidelines may seem ambitious, or even unrealistic. But sleep is essential for your health and for cognitive functions like learning.

Research has proven when school start times are put forward to allow students to get more sleep, it leads to an increase in academic performance. In a 2018 study, a Seattle High School delayed its start time by an hour and saw a 4.5% increase in the median grades of the students. It also saw an improvement in attendance.

It is possible to sleep too much (over ten hours regularly). Find out the right amount of sleep for you within these guidelines to feel rested when you wake.

Young woman sleeping in her bed

Studying at home

Uncertainty around exams and missing out on experiences has left many young people feeling frustrated. Many students can find themselves procrastinating or losing sight of their end goals.

Take comfort in knowing that learning how to self-direct your study is a skill for life.

Below, find a helpful conversation between Evelyn O’Rourke from RTÉ Radio 1 Drive Time’s Study Hub and Jen Trzeciak, eMental Health Manager at Jigsaw, about ways for students to stay motivated to study in a time of uncertainty around exams and school.

Here are some more strategies to help you stay motivated when studying from home:

An image of a person studying from home

Getting used to self-guided study

Due to Covid-19, many experienced periods of on-again, off-again classes and remote learning for school and college. 

For some subjects, this can be OK. Others create more challenges. Either way, increased self-motivation was required from students to engage with this way of learning.

In this article, you will find:

Close up of a young girl writing in a notebook

Ask Jigsaw: Won’t get into course

Hi,  today we received our calculated grades and unfortunately I think I won’t be getting into the course that I wanted to. So College might be out of the options. I live with my parents. I’m 18 and I don’t know the first thing about getting a job nor’ what it is that I would like. I don’t think I can just jump into something that I’ll end up hating everyday. I don’t have anywhere to share my thoughts and I don’t want to rely on my parents, because it’s my own life I want to get started. It takes a lot more time, doesn’t it?



Hi TryAndBeKind,

I am sorry to hear that you didn’t get the grades that you wanted. It sounds like you are both disappointed and confused about your next steps, which is understandable.

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How to ask for help

Whether we are feeling run down, experiencing low mood, or are in crisis we all need to reach out for support sometimes. You are not alone.

Recent research conducted by Orgyen and the World Economic Forum highlighted that 87% of the global population is affected by mental health difficulties. This can either be through individuals’ own experience or that of someone close to them.

Close up of someone on their computer researching