Tips for tackling university exam stress

Top tips for tackling stress

By Lois Looker,

Whether your exams are before or after Christmas, it’s likely that you’ll have started studying or you’ll be thinking about when you should be starting. A stressful time for everyone, no matter how well you’ve prepared, here are some tips to help keep your stress levels down but the studying on the up.


Everyone does it. I’ve chosen to write this article in place of studying anymore this evening as I would much rather listen to the Hunger Games: Catching Fire soundtrack and re-live the film all over again than do anymore reading. We will all find reasons not to be doing the reading we’re supposed to be doing or that essay that is due tomorrow and sometimes there’s no way to stop yourself from going onto Facebook every now and again just to check up on the world and make sure everything’s alright.

Instead, tell yourself that you can go on Facebook when you’ve read thirty more pages or you’ve written five hundred words. By giving yourself that target, you know that when you do go onto Facebook you will have achieved something. Just make sure you don’t spend the whole day or night on there and to give yourself a new target after ten minutes or so.

Study plan

If you’ve read any of my other blog posts, then you’ll know that I’m a pretty big fan of a good study plan, yep, can’t get any more exciting than that! (Around exam time my social life takes a bit of a hit and these are the things that start to make me happy in life...)
Basically, by writing out your study plan with targets, word counts to be achieved and tasks to be completed you can keep track of your progress because sometimes studying can seem like one, long, boring task that you feel like you’re getting nowhere with at all. By marking your progress, you’ll be able to see what you’ve done very clearly so that you know what to move onto next.

Time to yourself

Whether it’s going for a walk to the local shops with the dog, listening to some calming music or doing some baking, there are always little things that you can do to take your mind off the books and just give your head a break.

Things to avoid are:

  1. Spending all of your time online because if that’s what you’re doing to study, then soon enough you’ll start to get headaches and sore eyes from spending your work time and breaks online
  2. Reading for pleasure. Reading keeps your brain very alert and if you’re reading something a bit more complex than your average book, then your brain won’t be given the chance to shut down or unwind for a bit whilst you are supposed to be relaxing.
  3. The same rules apply to watching more challenging television programmes. It’s probably more recommendable to watch something like a light-hearted comedy or relaxing documentary as opposed to something which requires a lot of attention and thought. 
  4. Phoning or Skyping friends and family. It’s probably very tempting to use your breaks to contact the outside world again but I would recommend maybe just sending a few texts or snapchats (always go with the snapchats, always...). These mean that you can catch up and see how your friends are doing but you won’t get tired or stressed out at all by having a long conversation which might leave you feeling a bit drained. Wait until you’re done with your studying for the day before you make any long phonecalls.

Know when you need a day off

There are some days that your heart just won’t be in it (most days for me!) and you feel like you could just do with a break. If this happens then give yourself an hour for a cup of tea and a bit of time off before you get back into it. Other days you might have other things going on whether it’s things happening in your personal life or maybe you just don’t feel very well. It’s important to realise on these days that maybe you can just half your study load for that day and reassign it to another time or have the day off and make sure you’re well enough to actually sit the exam! There’s nothing worse than forcing yourself to study instead of focussing on getting better and then by the time the exams swings round you don’t even feel fit enough to sit it. Just don’t be too liberal with this tip, taking a few days off here, there and everywhere won’t help you at all. Just be aware of when you need a break and don’t be afraid to take it.

Staying sociable

It’s this time of year when exams can be the most annoying as all you really want to do is kick back, enjoy Christmas and spend as much time with your friends and family as you can. For the first time since I started working at my weekend job, I’m missing out on the Christmas night out because my exams start two days later and I don’t feel like I can justify it when I know I still have so much to do. After my final assignment was handed in I decided that I wouldn’t see my friends until my final exam. It didn’t last long. They managed to lure me out to see Catching Fire at the cinema a few nights ago and I was really glad I went. Because I knew I was going out for a couple of hours that night, I made sure that I had done a lot that day and then I did some reading when I got back from the film. Being with my friends was just a nice relief and meant that I didn’t resent going back to study so much because I knew that it wouldn’t be too long before I saw them again.

It’s better to focus on your studies, but don’t feel like you have to shut yourself in your room in the weeks running up to your exams. Find a balance that’s right for you and take the breaks you need with friends when you need them. They’ll keep you more focussed than you’d think!

What are some of your tips for de-stressing around the exam period?