Managing stress, sleep and wellbeing during exams

Managing stress, sleep and wellbeing during exams

Tuesday, 28 May 2024

As exam season approaches, it’s normal to feel stress and anxiety. When you feel pressure build, it is important to listen to those feelings.

It can feel like you have very little control over what’s going on when it comes to study and exams. Here are some practical and effective ways you can support yourself, by focusing on the stuff you can control.

Here are a few practical steps you can take before and during exams:

  • Plan Your Study Sessions: Focus more on subjects you find challenging, but don’t neglect the ones you’re good at. Balanced study time can boost your confidence across the board. You can find a guide on how to create a great study space as well as templates for creating great study schedules over on the Insitute of Education website here.
  • Prioritise Sleep: A good night’s sleep is crucial for clear thinking and memory retention. Aim to get enough rest to keep your mind sharp. We have an article on sleep and mental here that gives you detail about how much sleep we need, what we can do if we’re having trouble falling asleep and more.
  • Stay Connected: Spending time with friends can significantly reduce stress. Maintaining your social connections is essential for your wellbeing. Friendships are not always easy to maintain, but staying connected, even in a small way is important.
  • Take Regular Breaks: Studying non-stop isn’t effective. Short breaks can help you recharge and stay focused.


feet up on a white table with a yellow background

Take a break!

Overall wellbeing during exam time

One way to try and keep your wellbeing on track is by following the 5-a-Day for Mental Health:

  1. Connect with Others: Strengthen relationships for support and happiness.
  2. Be Active: Engage in physical activities to boost mood and health.
  3. Take Notice: Be mindful of the present to reduce stress.
  4. Keep Learning: Continuously seek new knowledge to stay curious and engaged.
  5. Give: Acts of kindness enhance social connections and a sense of purpose.

Eating a balanced diet

Eating a balanced diet is essential for maintaining both physical and mental health, especially during demanding times like exam season. Nutritious meals rich in vitamins, minerals, and proteins can enhance cognitive function and improve concentration. Incorporate a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats into your diet. Avoid excessive caffeine and sugary snacks, as these can lead to energy crashes and increased anxiety. Hydration is equally important—drink plenty of water throughout the day. Proper nutrition fuels your body and mind, helping you stay focused and resilient.

Taking breaks

Balancing study and leisure is crucial for maintaining your overall well-being and productivity during exam season. While dedicating time to study is important, overloading yourself can lead to burnout and decreased efficiency. Make sure that you add regular breaks and leisure activities into your schedule to relax and recharge. This balanced approach not only prevents exhaustion but also helps you return to your studies with renewed focus and energy.

Keep in touch with friends

Integrating social activities into your study routine can significantly boost your mental well-being and productivity. Meeting friends for a walk-and-talk study session combines physical activity with social interaction, which can refresh your mind and alleviate stress. This approach allows you to discuss study topics in a relaxed setting, reinforcing your learning while also providing a much-needed break from the confines of a traditional study environment. The fresh air, movement, and social connection help rejuvenate your energy and improve focus when you return to studying.

How to deal with disappointment

Managing Disappointment After an Exam

Feeling disappointed after an exam is completely natural. First, acknowledge your feelings and allow yourself to be upset. Once you’ve processed the initial emotions, try to identify what went wrong: was it a lack of preparation, anxiety, or misunderstanding of the material? Use this analysis to create a more effective study plan for the future. Seek support and comfort from family and friends.

  • Be Kind to Yourself: Start by acknowledging your effort and being gentle with yourself.
  • Reflect on the Positives: Sometimes, we tend to focus on the negatives. Take a moment to think about what went well.
  • Look Ahead: Use this experience to plan for your next exam. Maybe try a new study technique or spend more time on certain topics.
  • Remember Your Future: One exam does not define your future. Keep your goals in sight and continue working towards them. Setbacks are often stepping stones to greater success.
woman sleeping with covers pulled up over her head

Don't forget to sleep!

The importance of sleep over studying

Getting enough sleep is just as important as studying for your exams.

  • Develop a Routine: Set a sleep alarm to help you wind down, plan for the next day, and avoid screens an hour before bed.
  • Exercise During the Day: Physical activity can help tire out your body, making it easier to fall asleep.
  • Listen to Calming Sounds: Soundcasts or relaxing music can help you drift off to sleep more peacefully.

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