For a lot of people this month, exams are just around the corner. Let’s face it, when the weather’s been this nice, most of us would rather be sunning ourselves in a beer garden. However, in true martyrdom, we’ve set up camp in the library, our various assessments hanging around our necks and forcing us out of our exhausted minds with worry.
I was going to write a sort of ‘revision tips’ guide, but a) there’s loads of them to choose from around this time of year, and b) I’m crap at revising, so I don’t really have any worthwhile tips to preach. Instead, I thought I’d pen (type?!) something on mental health and wellbeing. Because although it feels like it at the time, I’ve got news for you: exams are not the be all and end all of your life.
I’m not trying to detract from the importance of exams, or the stress they present us with in the immediate moment. They may be for your GCSEs, A Levels, degree… all of which are important and should be taken seriously. But what I’m saying is that, in the grand scheme of things, they matter very little. A boy in my friend’s Masters group has given himself a nervous breakdown because he’s that tense about his assessments, which left herself and I with one question: is it worth it? Is sacrificing your mental wellbeing worth that extra mark?
I understand that this is an extreme case, but it really hit home. In an age where we are constantly assessed, it’s very easy to forget when exams end and normal life begins. I royally messed up my A Levels the first time I did them, and was embarrassed and ashamed at having to resit year 13; but looking back, none of it mattered. I got into a good uni, I’ve nearly finished my degree, and now my A Levels not only feel like a lifetime ago, but they seem like a ridiculous thing to worry about.
If you really can’t stop stressing, there are a few ways to combat this anxiety. Yoga classes (see my blog post about those here) or other forms of meditation help to focus the mind and release tension- I’ve recently downloaded the Headspace app and I love it, it’s so soothing! Regular exercise releases endorphins which put you in a better mood, so find something that suits you: I don’t think I’d be able to survive exam season without my boxing sessions to get rid of any pent up stress. These methods are great because they force you to shut off from the world and focus on yourself for a change. They also help you to have a good night’s sleep, which is obviously essential for assisting your poor brain to absorb more information in the inevitable library sesh you’ll undertake the next day.
So, to round off, exams are important, there’s no escaping that. BUT they’re not more important than you. Do your best, study hard, but don’t forget to cut yourself some slack. If something doesn’t go your way, move on from it and stay positive. You can do whatever you set your mind to, but don’t forget that you have to look after that mind in order for it to perform to the best of its ability.
Good luck in any exams that you might be sitting, I’ll see you on the other side (eek!).