Managing Revision And Exam Stress By Sophie Holcroft

Exam season is approaching, which you may be dreading, but try to shift your mindset to it's your time to shine! All that hard work and hours of homework will hopefully feel worth it as you show off how brilliant you are. Now, I am not an expert on this but, I have been in your shoes, so trust me, I know the feeling!

Take time to think about how you manage your stress, as we all recharge our batteries in different ways! Whether that's by being alone and escaping into a book or going to kick a ball around with friends. It's not something you sit down and work out, you may just realise that you repeatedly need to get some fresh air, or punch your pillow! How I manage stress is to talk it out. I feel like a new woman once it is off my chest, however, for me, this was in a lockdown, and for you, you will be surrounded by people equally as stressed, so just be wary of any negativity you may put onto someone else. We all rolled our eyes when our teacher said, “You need to be a radiator and not a drain.” Despite it being cringe-worthy, it does also speak some truth!

It's all about finding out how you find headspace. Maybe it's listening to music or watching a movie? I found that when I tried to sleep I was mentally tired, but not physically, so for me, I cleared my head by running, which in turn, helped my sleep. I was much more productive having done some exercise.  I am not talking about taking hours out of your day but even a 20-minute walk during your break is worth it. If exercise is not your thing, just get outside, and absorb that vitamin D that you may be lacking. 

Make sure you have a change of scene. Go and do something that has nothing to do with revision, whether that’s going to get a coffee, walking the dogs, or talking with friends about anything other than work. Don't feel guilty for looking after yourself and your wellbeing, as it is extremely important. I know this is easier said than done, but my Grandpa always said to me, “a rested brain is a more productive one,” and I tried to stick to this. I felt I didn’t have time for anything else, but if anything, make time! Otherwise, you just end up feeling overwhelmed and in a bit of a rut.

Managing your stress and getting away from your desk can help you be more productive. I felt like there is so much to learn, so I sat down for hours, and then realised nothing actually went in! I remember people would say, “I’ve done 8 hours of revision today!” and that's great, but may not be the most effective. The Pomodoro method worked for many of my friends, which is, 25 minutes of work, then a 5-minute break. You can get up, stretch, make a cup of tea and then get back to it! I put motivational quotes around my desk and as much as my friends made a joke of it, I benefited from being surrounded by positivity. My main piece of advice is to not work in your bedroom. Try and put your desk somewhere else, so you can compartmentalise work to your place of relaxation.

A teacher told us, “know your revision technique!” I just went blank and thought, “Well… how do I work that out?” Reflect on what you do, and try to eliminate what just looks pretty. I have always been one for posters, which I used at GCSE. I then went back to this at A-Level but took it further; I read my posters, condensed the information, wrote out what I remember on a whiteboard, learnt what I had forgotten, and put it into play with practice questions. One way may not work for another subject, for example for RS GCSE, I made podcasts for each topic. I feel the process of writing, reading, speaking, and listening really consolidated my knowledge. Just know, flashcards are not the only way! I found teaching someone else a topic effective. If everyone is busy, I am sure your pets will listen!

Get out of your pyjamas! As much as it may be the last thing you want to do, I feel the clothes you wear, sets you up for the day and puts you into the ‘mood’ to work. You will only appreciate the cosiness even more after a long day.

When you are waiting outside the exam hall, looking at last-minute notes and quizzing your friends may be tempting but, I would make a pact not to do this. It only creates angst for others, who overhear the questions and don’t know the answer. My friends and I also agreed to not talk about the exam after, as there is nothing worse than hearing “Oh, that was so easy,” or “What did you get for Question two?” and you got a different answer. That is not going to do anyone any favours! 

Try and get at least 8 hours of sleep to give yourself the fuel to go again the next day. When you're asleep your brain sorts all the information out. I like to think of it as little people sorting out a pile of paper into filing cabinets, one for short-term and the other for long-term memory. However, if you don’t get enough sleep, they don't have enough time to sort through the whole pile, leaving a backlog for the next day, hence being less productive. 

You can help yourself relax by taking some time for self-care before bed. I did some bedtime yoga, whilst my friends prioritised skincare - it's totally up to you! I highly recommend the ‘This Works lavender Sleep Spray.’ My friends also used the ‘This Works’ stress-relieving roll-ons on their wrists throughout the day. Rescue Remedy always worked a treat to have on your desk as reassurance. The app Headspace is also great, as it does what it says on the tin - helps to clear your mind by breath control. 

Take a deep breath, believe in yourself, and good luck!