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How to Maintain a Positive Mindset during Exam Season

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How to Maintain a Positive Mindset during Exam Season

Exam season can be exceptionally stressful. Here’s our advice to make sure you’re looking after yourself while doing your very best!

With deadlines, exams, IAs, and EEs, all needing your focus at the same time, it can feel overwhelming to try and get through it all. It’s important to give yourself the breathing space to do well while maintaining a positive attitude and approach to revision and work. This way you can do your very best, without the risk of burning out or pushing yourself to your extremes.

We’ve compiled some of our key advice to help you support yourself during the hectic exam period, but you should always try to speak with friends, family, a teacher, or a mental health advocate if you’re feeling anxious or like you can’t cope. You can find more information about organisations to contact at the bottom of this article.

Don’t compare yourself to others, only yourself
Working on the same material, day-in-day-out, with the same people, makes it easy to constantly judge your progress against your peers. It can be useful to look around and see where other people are, but with each person having such a different background and skillset, sometimes this kind of comparison may not be very helpful.

Instead of placing yourself in comparison to your friends and classmates, focus on comparing yourself to yourself in the past and seeing the progress you’ve made. Everyone starts out at different stages and so, by judging your own progress and not how you compare to the best in the class, you don’t lose sight of how far you’ve come.

Train your body, as well as mind
Plato said ‘The body is the tomb of the soul.’ Neglecting your physical health can have a big impact on your ability to stay in a positive frame of mind. Not sleeping, getting by on a poor diet, and hardly moving all day can exacerbate feelings of anxiety. Apps like SleepCycle and FocusKeeper can help your sleep patterns, and ensure you take regular breaks, while apps like ‘Zombies, Run!’ (as an alternative to Nike+) can help distract you from thinking about mitosis or microeconomics while you exercise.

But you don’t need to become a triathlete to stay healthy. Drink lots of water (instead of coffee or energy drinks); take regular breaks during which you get up and move; use the 20:20:20 rule to prevent eye strain (look at something 20 meters away, for 20 seconds, every 20 minutes), and you’ll begin to feel the difference.

Reward yourself
Exams are important: they have an impact on what you can do in the future, and you should try your best to succeed in them, but they’re not the only things you should focus on. Motivate yourself with post-exam rewards to celebrate all your hard work, and help drive that final push. Go to the cinema after your exam with other people from your class; order a pizza in the park and relax for a few hours; after your final exam, celebrate in a big way – have a party or a big holiday already on the calendar as something to look forward to. Don’t forget that exams aren’t the be-all and end-all and that life continues after they’re finished!

Make space for revision
Revising in your bedroom can be very distracting. That poster of your favourite band nudges you to put on one of their albums to revise to, then you remember how good the video is for one of their songs, suddenly you’re watching all their videos, reading the comments, and not noticing the hours of valuable revision time slipping by. Finally, when you close your laptop and try to sleep, all you can think about is all the revision you haven’t done…

Find somewhere else to revise – the dining/living room, the study, your school/local library – and work there. That way, you don’t associate your bedroom with work (or get distracted by the things in it) but think of it instead as a work-free zone where you can truly relax. On top of that, when you show up at your designated study space, your mind will easily lock into revision mode, and you’ll find yourself far more focused and motivated than usual.

Communicate with Others
Make it clear to your friends and family that you’re revising and can’t be interrupted, but also make clear when you’re free and can talk, have a coffee, or eat lunch together. It’s another way to motivate yourself through your sessions (‘Just 30 mins and then I can go with my friend to that new sandwich place’) and keep you distraction-free while you work, without boxing yourself away for weeks on end.

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Use these opportunities to speak with other people about how you’re feeling too. If you’re stressed, and feel like you just can’t do any more work, speak with friends who are going through the same situation as you. Mums and Dads always want the best for you, and probably don’t know the amount of work you have to do. School friends and teachers can help you balance your time well, and advise you when to take a break, all the while from a vantage point of knowing the amount of material you may still need to cover and how much work can be reasonably covered in a day.

If you’re struggling to stay positive at any time, you should should speak to family, friends, or a teacher. If you feel like you don’t have someone to talk to, you can contact organisations like YoungMinds, or speak with other students on platforms like MeeToo.

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Timothy Hoffmann