Exam anxiety? Dr Carly Wilson shares her advice

Exam results day can often be a stressful period. If you - or someone you know - are worried about getting good results, here's some advice from St Andrew's Dr Carly Wilson (Principal Chartered Counselling Psychologist).

“There is a lot of pressure to get good results in exams at school and university, and this coupled with other stressful things that might be happening in your personal life can mean you may be left feeling overwhelmed and out of control of the situation. This can impact your mental health, as stress can sometimes develop into low mood and anxiety.

It is important to remember that everyone has mental health just like they have physical health.

If you have good mental health you can;

  • Cope with life’s ups and downs more easily
  • Play a full part in your family, friends and school life
  • Make the most of your potential

Your mental health can change as different things happen in your life, such as exams and worrying about the results! Pressure turns into stress when you feel unable to cope and stress can affect how you think, feel and behave and how your body works. Some common symptoms of stress are:

  • Feeling irritable
  • Poor sleep
  • Loss of interest in food
  • Worrying a lot
  • Appearing negative
  • Headaches, dizziness, muscle tension, stomach pains
  • Difficulty concentrating

But there are things you can do to keep stress at bay and keep you in top shape:

Good food is good for your mood!

  • Drink lots of water
  • Reduce caffeine – try herbal teas instead
  • Refuel regularly– begin with breakfast! Being hungry will drain your mental energies
  • Eat MORE fresh fruits, vegetables and slow release carbs for energy
  • Eat LESS fast foods (fatty, salty, sweet) they can make you irritable and moody

Exercise!

  • Regular exercise, 60 minutes a day (walk the dog, run, jog)
  • Ride your bike
  • Sports

Sleep

  • 8- 9 hours a night
  • Keep your bedroom a place for relaxation and sleep
  • Make sure it’s not too hot or too cold
  • Make sure it’s dark when trying to sleep
  • Don’t go to bed hungry or too full!
  • Try not to drink caffeine before bed and let yourself unwind and relax before sleep

Help others - doing good feels good!

  • Research suggests that people who volunteer for causes they care about tend to be happier and healthier, and even live longer

Chill! Relaxation is key to maintaining a positive wellbeing

  • Taking up a hobby - it can help to switch your brain off
  • Walking releases endorphins but can also help you to switch off from pressures as you take in the scenery around you. Getting fresh air also helps you to relax and sleep better
  • A warm bath can help the muscles to relax and encourages a general feeling of relaxation
  • Watching a film or reading a book – escapism is a great way to switch off from reality for a while and help the mind to relax
  • Meet a mate – leaving the stressful situation you are in and talking things over with a friend can really help, as can chatting about something completely different to take your mind off things

Family and friends

  • They might annoy us at times but friends and family help to keep us going when things get tough
  • They can keep us grounded, help us put things in perspective and support us.

Remember to keep exam stress and results in perspective; they are important but are not everything, whatever happens in your exams you can still be successful in life.”

---

St Andrew’s have published some simple little booklets with hints and tips to improving your mental health.

For more information regarding St Andrew’s private therapy services, click here.