How to deal with GCSE exam stress
During GCSE exam season students will undoubtedly feel extremely stressed and anxious throughout the entire process, and although some may enjoy working under pressure, it can become quite overwhelming for certain students. Students begin to think what happends after you take your GCSE’s even before they have completed their exams, which is why it’s vital to be confident with what you do, coming up to exams. Unfortunately, the only scenario that includes absolutely no GCSE exam stress is not taking your GCSEs at all – and we don’t advise that! However, we have some pointers to aid students during a very stressful part of their educational lifetime and to help them beat those study blues. There are a wide variety of career options after taking GCSE’s which is why it’s important to remain calm about your upcomming exams.
How do I know if I am feeling stressed because of my GCSEs?
Students may begin to experience stress when they feel a lot of pressure emotionally or mentally – which can too often occur during GCSE exam season. It is natural to feel under pressure at this time, as you have been working a long time to secure these qualifications, and with the constant reminders of exam dates being told to you by your friends, family and teachers it is no surprise you would feel stressed! However, there are many solutions to combat stress that you can begin to incorporate into your daily routine to ease the feeling of being overwhelmed.
The scientific method
When the body feels stressed or under pressure, it releases hormones which induce a stress response, typically also releasing adrenaline into the bloodstream. Some symptoms can include shallow breathing and sweaty palms which can affect your concentration; however, these are usually extreme scenarios. Students won’t break into a sweat every time they open up their science homework – but still, may feel stressed about it. The body releases adrenaline to aid you to cope with the pressure that lies ahead – such as an exam – and as soon as it is over your body then will naturally balance the chemicals, so you will soon feel calm once again. The more confident you are in something, the less stressed a student can be, revising for exams can provide students with this much needed confidence,
These chemical reactions in the body are natural responses – you’re not a medical marvel as it happens to everyone! – and are not damaging when they naturally recur from time to time. However, if you are feeling like this often then you need to try to control your emotions a bit more so that it doesn’t take its toll on you. It won’t be damaging to your body, but you may not enjoy the feeling of being so stressed so often.
Understanding what makes you feel stressed
It is just as important to understand what makes you feel stressed as it is to learn how to perform under pressure. Each individual is different and will feel stressed by differing scenarios, some may be anxious for the science exam because that was their weakest subject, while others may feel stressed about a particular exam because they want to study a particular subject at A Level. Your stress triggers will be individual to your experiences and how you feel about them. Although, once you gain insight into what makes you feel stressed you can adjust how you approach and deal with the trigger for better results. Consider the following questions:
- Think about the last time you felt really stressed/pressured/overwhelmed
- Where were you?
- Who were you with?
- What were you doing?
- How did you feel before, during and after?
- Were there any physical factors, i.e. tummy pain, sweating, changes in your breathing, etc.
- What happened after?
- How did you react?
- How did you feel for the rest of the day?
- Did anything make you feel better?
Once you analyse why and how you felt during the stress trigger, you can begin to change your reaction to it. There are lots of symptoms to feeling overstressed, which are listed below, and some students may experience one or more of them:
- Being teary or more emotional than you usually are
- Experience a loss of appetite and eating less
- Having an upset stomach more regularly
- Feeling tired when you wake up
- Finding it difficult to concentrate
- Feeling overwhelmed
- Feeling anxious and nervous the majority of the time
- Having a lack of self-esteem – especially if it has decreased over time
- Struggling to get to sleep, wake up a lot at night, or have a bad night of sleep
- Feeling run down, or ill more often
- Stress-induced panic attacks
However, if you experience one or more of the symptoms above it doesn’t necessarily mean that you are stressed, you could have a cold or randomly experienced a bad night of sleep. Although, if you feel that you have or are experiencing several of these symptoms, especially on a regular basis you should speak to your teachers, family and your GP to make them aware of the situation. They can help you address the situation and aid you in overcoming your stress triggers.
Tick off the basics
The three most important things to keep your mind and body working like a machine is adequate and healthy food, sleep and water. Your body desperately needs these three things, in specific amounts to keep your body functioning. Students need to know how to get the most out of GCSE study leave, it can be the factor of achieving the high grades they want.
The NHS recommends women should drink 1.6 litres of fluid, and men should drink 2 litres of fluid each day. If you find that you naturally drink more than this that is okay too, listen to what your body needs and react in the correct way. The fluid should contain as much water as you can, but it you don’t enjoy drinking water you could switch it out for squash or cordial to give it a taste kick! It is also best to drink small amounts but often throughout the day to ensure your body is staying hydrated – never attempt to drink it all at once as it can be damaging and unpleasant. Your brain needs to be hydrated for better brain function, and the water also helps to distribute nutrients around your body.
Fuelling your body
It is also just as important to fuel your body and mind with fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and healthy snacks as part of a balanced diet, where you either choose to have three meals a day, or five much smaller meals a day. Having snacks to fuel GCSE revision will come in rather handy, so take a close look at those! Otherwise, you may feel hunger pains throughout revision sessions which will distract you, or feel that you find it hard to concentrate. Avoid refined sugars, such as fizzy drinks, sweets and chocolate as they will give you a temporary sugar high that isn’t good for your body – especially when the blood sugar low comes into effect shortly after. A balanced diet will provide you with a stabilised blood sugar level keeping you feeling awake and refreshed all day, whereas a sugar high will make you crash and burn and feel as if you have no energy, and more likely to grab another unhealthy snack to get back that ‘high’.
Sleep is one of the most vital things that your body needs each and every day; it is a time where the body heals, conducts cell repair and when your brain archives and stores all the information you remembered that day into memory, therefore sleep can boost brain power. Sleep can also show a lot of information to you, especially if you find that you have begun to dream a lot, or even experience nightmares or night terrors. If you find that you have had bad dreams then keep a pen and paper next to your bed and write the dreams down when you wake up so you can attempt to find a pattern within them, and realise what is playing on your mind throughout the night. Also, televisions, tablets and smartphones are terrible at helping you get off to sleep, therefore try to avoid using them an hour before bed – it will help you sleep better.
Set up a morning routine to help beat GCSE exam stress. Our bodies and minds love a routine; it is a representation of familiarity that it can become accustomed to and also allows us to gain a level of control because the same things are occurring each and every day. Students should avoid starting revision as soon as they wake up every morning, and instead create a morning routine that works for them. Each individual’s routine would differ to their friend’s and family’s. Whether you want to eat breakfast straight away, or prefer to be on your smartphone for half hour, or just to sit and look out the window is entirely up to you. Ensure that you repeat this every day so that your mind knows exactly what is coming and when. It will also give you adequate time to prepare for your study session.
Do the things that you love
Revising for GCSE exams does not mean that you can’t enjoy your time off from school to prepare for your GCSE exams. Students should incorporate things that they enjoy doing within their daily routine, whether that is watching a movie or television series, playing on a games console, or socialising with friends. The brain requires downtime to be able to process and store the information that you study each and every day and is vital that you don’t overwork yourself – as it will only do more damage than good. It is also helpful to place exercise within your routine, from a swift jog, or a trip to the gym, the level of intensity of the exercise is unimportant, but the fact that you do place exercise in your routine will improve your overall wellbeing. Exercise releases hormones that the body enjoys and is also proven to combat stress and anxiety.
Dealing with your emotions
Your emotions will also play a vital role in your ability to reduce the level of stress you may incur during GCSE study leave. One great way to beat stress, anxiety and procrastination is to understand that the future is coming, you are going to have to sit these GCSE exams, and the only thing that you can do change the future at all is to revise and do the best that you can on the day. The exams are a tough time for most students, but they will come and go – they won’t be there every day for the rest of your life, and they will, very quickly, become the past. Instead of using your energy on worrying about your exams, try to focus on what you can do to help the situation, such as; revising with past GCSE exam papers, completing your revision plan and try to achieve your personal study goals, and try your hardest every day. Nobody asks anything more of you, and they won’t either. Students should realise their biggest judge is themselves, only you will know how hard you worked and if you truly did try your best.