Exams and Stress


Everyone gets nervous; it's a normal part of exams but high stress levels around exam time can have a detrimental effect on a young person's mental health and wellbeing.


While a little bit of stress around exam time can be useful for helping a young person to focus and work hard, extreme stress levels will have the opposite effect by making a young person feel negative, anxious and want to give up.


When we get too stressed we release too much stress hormone into our systems this can lead to symptoms including difficulty getting to sleep or waking up, constant tiredness, forgetfulness, unexplained aches or pains, poor appetite, loss of interest in activities, higher levels of irritability, increased heart rate and dizziness, this response to stress can have a damaging and long-lasting effect on a young person's health and wellbeing. 


Suffering from three or more of these symptoms for more than two to three weeks is a sign that stress levels are too high and measures need to be taken to reduce them.


While it's not so easy to stop feeling nervous, it might be helpful for a young person to develop some ways to look after their wellbeing. The Five Ways to Wellbeing are a set of actions that anyone can adopt to help them to stay mentally well. They won't prevent stressful situations but give us resilience to be able to cope.


Things to remember when trying to manage exam stress:

  • Learn to recognise when you're stressing out. ...
  • Avoid comparing your abilities with your mates...
  • Sleep well...
  • Avoid friends that are stressed out
  • Exercise....
  • Quit the bad habits....like too much caffeine or sweet drinks
  • Panic is often triggered by hyperventilating (quick, shallow breaths)...long deep breaths can calm you
  • Steer clear of any exam post-exam discussions

Here are some more details and techniques that a young person can use at times of stress, particularly around exam time:

Meditation and exercise are great ways to help clear your mind, leaving you feeling refreshed and energised. Plan something for first thing in the morning – if you start your day well, you are more likely to stay calm. Headspace is a digital service that provides guided meditation sessions and mindfulness training. It can be accessed online, or via a mobile app. They offer a free initial sign up.

Use deep breathing to relax your body and mind and use positive language with yourself and visualise your exams going smoothly.





Eat the right foods and drink lots of water – too much coffee and sugar for example can make you feel more anxious as they are stimulants. BBC Good Food provides details of foods that are good for your mental wellbeing and boost your brainpower!



Plan your exam day so you feel in control; allow for travel and proper meals. Being prepared and doing the work will always help you feel more confident about sitting your exams, so do as much revision as you can but don't go over the top. There's only so much that you can take in.


Get out in the fresh air! Have a walk, go to the gym or do whatever physical activity that you enjoy...like dancing to your favourite song!


                   Celebrate your successes in revision tasks and know when you do well.


Here are some organisations that can support young people with exam stress:


Link:The Mix gives you some tips for getting through exams



Link: The Samaritans have developed a useful set of coping strategies for dealing with exam stress



Link: Young Minds provides advice for young people and parents about anxiety and school