Exam Stress and Well-Being- Top Tips to beat exam stress

Food, Drink and Sleep

  • Eat breakfast every day.

On exam days;

  • avoid high carbohydrate breakfasts on exam days, they can make you feel tired and lethargic
  • avoid high sugar foods, they will give you a sugar rush and then a crash
  • Be really well hydrated – water is best!


  • You need to be in good routines and you need to get 8 hours sleep per night
  • Avoid using any device before bedtime and give yourself an hour to relax with no blue light exposure before bed
  • Move your computers and consoles out of your bedroom during the exam window – your bedroom needs to be a haven of calm and distraction free!

Thoughts and Feelings

When you are stressed and feeling under pressure, sometimes the following things can happen;

  • Mind Read: You might make assumptions about others’ beliefs without having any real evidence to support them
  • Catastrophise: People commonly ‘catastrophise’ when they are anxious, which basically means that they often blow things out of proportions.
  • Focus On Negatives: Anxious people often have a tendency to focus on negatives which keeps their anxiety going.
  • Make ‘Should’ Statements: People often imagine how they would like things to be or how they ‘should be’ rather than accepting how things really are.
  • Over Generalise: Based on one isolated incident, you assume that all others will follow a similar pattern in the future.
  • Make ‘What If’ Statements: Have you ever wondered “what if…?” when something bad happens?
  • Label: You attach negative labels to yourself.

Challenging unhelpful thoughts

You can challenge your unhelpful thoughts by asking these questions:

  • Is there any evidence that contradicts this thought
  • What would you say to a friend who had this thought in a similar situation?
  • What are the costs and benefits of thinking in this way?
  • How will you feel about this in 6 months time?
  • Is there another way of looking at this situation

Once you have asked yourself these questions, you should read through your answers. Try to come up with a more balanced or rational view. For example: “Worrying about failing is doing me no good. I’ve always done well before so I should be fine, especially since I’ve prepared properly.”

Problem solving

Follow the steps below to work through and overcome the problem.

1. Identify your problem: The first thing to ask yourself is “what is the problem?”. Try to be as specific as possible.

2. Come up with possible solutions: Try to list every way you can think to overcome your problem. Don’t worry about how unrealistic an idea seems. Write down anything and everything. The best solutions are likely to be the ones you think of yourself. This is because nobody really knows your situation as well as you do.

3. Choose a solution

4. Break down your solution: To help you carry out your chosen solution, it can be useful to break it down into smaller steps. This can make it easier and more manageable to follow through.

5. Try out your solution and review the outcome


It is important to make time to relax and do activities that are enjoyable. This can help to reduce your anxiety levels by calming the body and mind. It can also help you to sleep. Without taking the time to unwind, it is easy to feel overwhelmed and stressed. Try to find time to relax every day and include relaxation in your own revision timetable.

  • Do some exercise (e.g. swim, cycle)
  • Read a book
  • Watch your favourite TV show
  • Go to the cinema
  • Do something creative (e.g. draw, paint)
  • Visit a friend or family member
  • Have a bath
  • Meditation / breathing exercises

Look after yourself

Taking steps towards a healthy lifestyle can have a real impact on our stress levels.

  • Relationships / Social Network: Good relationships and support from friends and family can really help us cope better. It can also mean that we overcome problems more quickly and for longer. It can be really helpful to talk through difficulties with friends. You could discuss ways of coping, and some of them might have been through something similar.
  • Healthy Eating: What you eat and drink can have a significant impact on both your mood, sleep and physical health
  • Exercise: Keeping fit and active can have an impact on your mood.
  • Routine: Having a consistent routine can help give structure to your life. Patterns can be set as we react the same way or do the same thing in certain situations.
  • Surroundings: Consider the noise, temperature and light you have to deal with. The comfort and tidiness of your surroundings can have an impact on your mood


Free apps for your phone or tablet


Mindshift – mindfulness and other coping skills for anxiety

Headspace (free 10 day trial)

Things to consider

  • Don’t fear the symptoms of anxiety. Anxiety is a natural and healthy reaction that is not dangerous.
  • Try not to escape situations you fear half-way through. Stay, and your anxiety will eventually decrease.
  • Your anxiety will reduce each time you confront a feared situation. Try to confront your fears as often as possible.
  • You may also find it helpful to challenge any unhelpful thoughts as you face a fear.

Important: If you think you are suffering from stress and feel you just can’t cope, please do not suffer in silence. Talk to someone and seek support. There are many people in school that are here to help.

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