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School of Mathematical Sciences

How to look after your mental health during the exam period

9-15 May 2022 is Mental Health Awareness Week and we've invited final year Maths students, Nia Patel, to share some advice on how to look after your mental health during exam season. 

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Students, exam season can be tough, particularly when it comes to mental health.

Revision schedules, working part-time, worrying about whether you’ll be able to progress or graduate – these are all factors that can contribute to poor mental health during that scary May-June period.

I know how that feels. I’ve been there with suffering mental health during my exams. However, there are some tips and tricks that I’ve come across that have really helped me throughout every exam season at university, and I’m going to share them with you today.

Even if it helps just one person who’s struggling with their mental health, I’ll be happy.

Before Your Exams Start – The Pomodoro Technique

A technique I’ve found to be really useful when studying is the Pomodoro method. Here’s how it works:

  1. Start a task and work on it for 25 minutes WITHOUT DISTRACTIONS.
  2. When the 25 minutes is up, take a 5-minute break.
  3. Repeat steps 1 and 2 around 3-4 times and then take a longer break of 15-20 minutes.

This technique helps me to remain productive throughout the day, whilst still ensuring that I’m taking regular breaks and therefore avoiding burnout before exams have even begun.

In the lead up to your exams, I’d also recommend creating a revision plan or schedule for the exam season. This will help you plan your studying according to when your exams are, and it’ll also allow you to visualize when you can fit in studying alongside other commitments such as meeting friends and family, society events or part-time work.

During Your Exams

When your exams start, it’s so easy to let your mental health slip to the bottom of the priority list.

In reality, if you let your mental health and wellbeing suffer during your exams, it could adversely impact your performance and motivation throughout.

Here are my top tips to look after your mental health DURING your exams:

  • Get a good night’s rest the night before – don’t stay up late trying to cram in some last-minute revision
  • Have a filling breakfast so your energy levels are at 100%
  • Take deep breaths while you work

After An Exam – If It Didn’t Go To Plan

So, you’ve just finished an exam. If it went well – hooray! You smashed it.

But what about if it didn’t go so well?

This is one of the things I struggle with most during exams. When an exam doesn’t go that well or wasn’t how you expected it to be, I often find myself slipping into this mindset of worry and anxiety, and it plays on my mind throughout the day.

That said, I have learnt a few things at university that have helped me with these feelings. So if you also struggle with this after an exam, here’s my tips and tricks for getting through it:

  • Remind yourself that you did your best. We can never predict exactly how an exam is going to go, even if you were super prepared for it. If you gave it the best you could, you’ve got nothing to be upset about.
  • Don’t compare yourself or your exam performances to that of your friends. Just because they found the exam easier, that doesn’t mean you’ve failed, or you didn’t study hard enough. We all have different skills and abilities, and it’s important to remember that.
  • Take the rest of the day off! Often, I find that trying to push through more revision when I’ve had a bad exam only makes it stick in my mind more. If an exam didn’t go to plan, use the rest of the day to go for a walk, read a book, watch a film – anything you enjoy doing! This will help to clear your head and move on so you’re fully prepared for the next challenge.

Where to get extra support

Never hesitate to seek professional support for your mental health if you need it. The School of Mathematical Sciences has a designated Mental Health and Wellbeing group, including a number of trained Mental Health First Aiders. You can learn more about Me + We and the supports they offer here.

If you prefer to seek help outside of the School and University, here are some numbers you can call if you ever need to:

  • Queen Mary Advice and Counselling Service - 020 7882 8717 
  • Samaritans – 116 123
  • Mind UK – 0300 123 3393
  • NHS 111 

I hope this blog post has been useful for you! Remember to protect your mental health and wellbeing this exam season.

Wishing you the best of luck for your upcoming exams! You’ve got this.

Nia Patel

 

 

 

 

 

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