Putting wellbeing first during exam season
As we’re delving deeper into exam season, anxiety and tension might be running high. And of course, any anxiety at the moment is magnified by a year of lockdowns and uncertainty. With assignments and deadlines looming, looking after our wellbeing can quite often fall into second place. But in order to mitigate exam- and pandemic-stress, we must try to put our mental and physical wellbeing first. Therefore, I’ve tried to adopt some new principles for exam season, which will help achieve a good study-life balance.
- Stop BEFORE you are too tired to do anymore – reaching breaking point is not the goal
Essentially, this is a long-winded way of saying: don’t burn out. When I started revision, my method was to work until I was too tired to work anymore. Initially, I saw this as fairly logical: if I put all my effort into exams, I’d presumably reap the rewards in my results. However, in practicality, my method meant that I’d burn myself out with revision by the end of the day.
Since then, I’ve tried to adopt some new logic: looking after my mental and physical wellbeing requires way more attention than revision. I schedule in breaks and know what time I’ll stop working – and I’m happy to stop earlier if I’m particularly tired. It sounds small, but has had massive impact on the quality of my work, and the quality of my day-to-day life.
2. Remember that you’ve been through three lockdowns – adapt
I sometimes wonder how I used to fit so much into a day at A-Level. I’d commute to College, see my friends, attend in-person lessons, drive home again and continue studying. I love my degree, but I think that the cumulative effect of online learning and three lockdowns has possibly taken its toll on my energy levels. I’ve reduced the amount of revision the pre-Covid version of me would have done for these exams and adapted to it to a version that seems reasonable now. Again, it’s about prioritising our wellbeing, which will, in turn, benefit our studies anyway.
3. Make plans OTHER than revision
Every time exam season swings back around, it can take a while to remember that revision shouldn’t be all-consuming. Breaking the day up with other plans, like sport or seeing friends, means that any studying becomes quality, rather than quantity.
4. Talk to your friends or coursemates
This year has been difficult for working together in a normal way, although, of course, we’ve adapted. As restriction have eased, I’ve found that it makes a big difference to meet up in study groups to talk about things that we don’t understand, or to work through problems together. I’ve always preferred learning through discussion, and being able to claim some of that back has made revision easier.
This exam season is challenging not only because, well, it’s exam season, but because of the year that it’s followed. We need to adapt to the situation, and remember that ‘working hard’ means working on our wellbeing, too.