• When studying for exams it's vital to look after yourself so you can perform at your best

  • Therapist Dawn Hastings shares her seven tips to help keep exam stress at bay

When you are dragged down into the murky depths of exam season, it can be difficult to keep track of the 'little' things: like food, sleep, exercise, when you feel under pressure to devour four books a day for sustenance, fall asleep while listening to foreign language podcasts in the hope that it'll all sink in by the time the oral exam comes around, and the only exercise you can make time for is lugging a rucksack full of textbooks up and down the library stairs.

We've all been there before, and the thing is, unless you are in your finals (good luck!), you will likely be there again. When the fog clears and you reintroduce yourself to normality, you might look back and wish you had put yourself, your health, your sanity, first a little more. So, here's some advice from BACP therapist Dawn Hastings to keep you afloat the next time the pressure's on. 

Keep things in perspective

“Don’t put unnecessary pressure on yourself by expecting perfection – no one is perfect. All you can do is try your best, and however important exams may appear to be now, they certainly aren’t the end of the world. In the grand scheme of things exams are only a small part of life, and so even if you don’t get the results you want or need, there will be other options open to you”.

Be confident

Believe in yourself! If you’ve worked hard and done the work, then you’ll be ready for whatever is thrown at you come exam time. Try to stay relaxed and have the belief that your efforts will be rewarded. You could also try using a couple of positive statements like “I am calm and confident” or “I am well prepared for this” to help inspire you in your exams”.

Use a revision timetable

“Creating a revision timetable is a great way to organise your workload. When you feel that you are losing concentration take a short break; you will then come back to your revision refreshed. Cramming all your revision into the last couple of days will only lead to added anxiety, so make sure to manage your time spent revising effectively and allow for plenty of rest time so that you can relax and rewind”.

Take time out

“It is vital that you make time to relax and do the things you enjoy. Having your head in the books all day isn’t going to do you any good; arrange a meet-up with friends, take a trip to the countryside, or head to your local cinema – just make sure you take your mind off of revision for a bit!”

Sleep in a bed, not at a desk

“It is very important that you get a good night’s rest and keep a regular sleeping pattern. Don’t get bogged down with late night revision sessions fuelled by numerous cups of caffeine – it’s not good for you! If you find it difficult to get to sleep then you could try a relaxation exercise before going to bed; you can find lots of free podcasts on the internet. In addition to this, maintaining a healthy diet – including fruit, veg and drinking plenty of water – will help keep you feel fresh and energised going into a day of exams or revision".


Exercise is an easy way to de-stress and has proven to increase energy levels and help with sleep, so make time to get some fresh air and stretch your legs. Whether it’s a trip to the gym, a quick stroll around the park or a game of football with your friends, it’s an effective way to relax and take your mind off of exams".

Talk to someone

“If you’re finding it difficult to cope or things become too much, talk to someone you trust about the difficulties you’re facing. Most schools, colleges and universities have access to counselling services where qualified therapists are available to talk through your issues in a safe, confidential environment".

Further reading

Mindfulness tips for exam stress: how to support your child

How green spaces reduce stress

Poor exam results? next steps for parents and teens

Student mental health: can mindfulness reduce stress?