I am aware that exam season is upon us and this brings back many memories, whether it be GCSE’s, A-Levels, Professional Qualifications or my recent OU degree, the pressures, stresses and anxieties which surround study and exams are the same.
I don’t know about you or your loved ones, but one of the things I found happened to me was at the beginning of a new academic term or year or at the beginning of studying for a new professional qualification, I was full of excitement, enthusiasm and motivation. I had a plan to keep on top of everything and knew exactly how I was going to approach the forthcoming challenge, I love to challenge myself and to learn and grow!
Then as time went on and life happens, you see it has a terrible habit of doing that and disrupting plans by just throwing little curve balls in here and there, I found I would start to lose my enthusiasm and I would sometimes fall behind which was very stressful, especially with the OU. I found that setting up and two running businesses, working part time and studying along with a few other things, was probably a little bit too much. Then like I say, other things get in the way too, sometimes we become unwell, or in my case I had a couple of quite significant bereavements amongst other things.
I know many other friends who have had a whole host of other things coming into the equation and if you or your loved ones are a young person, taking exams at school, college or uni, there are a number of other things in the mix including; hormones, peer pressures, family troubles, the concern that these exams could massively impact the future.
So these things all combine and impact on our time and enthusiasm, our plans go out the window and we become tired and unmotivated and by the time we get to the stressful time of revising for exams, we have pretty much had enough, we feel that we have nothing more to give. Sound familiar? I am writing this, because I want people to know it is normal, it happens to us all, this is undoubtedly a stressful time and it is all consuming.
I remember waiting for it all to be over so I could get my life back, and on more than one occasion I felt like giving up, that I was clinging on by my fingernails, I know others were feeling the same too and this may familiar to you.
So what kept me going? The knowledge that I wanted to achieve this more than anything and that I am not a quitter (although in some circumstances this is unavoidable and this is by no means a judgement, this was just something that worked for me to keep me going), also remembering I only had a certain number of weeks left, that soon this would pass and I wanted to know that I had done my best, because let’s face it, that is all any of us can do. I didn’t want to get to the other side, the day after my last exam or piece of course work and think, I know I could have done better, I could have done more.
So how did I manage the stress? For me it is so important to have time out, time to exercise, go for a walk, have fun with friends or just watch some rubbish TV, having that time out gave me time to recharge the batteries, which helped to energise me and keep me motivated.
I also broke my study into small chunks, I could give it my all for 30 minutes and then do something else for 30 minutes and repeat this, it meant I actually learnt the stuff I was revising, we cannot concentrate for long periods of time effectively and this worked for me. You will find something that works for you, something which helps you to get that balance, to find some clarity and be able to focus on your work better, sitting for hours trying to force it is unrealistic and unproductive and for me totally demoralising. So find something which works for you, we are all different.
On the day, for me, it was trusting that I had prepared myself as well as I could within the context of my life at that time. Making sure I had got a good night’s sleep, trusting that I would do my best in the exam that I had everything I needed and that I made sure I arrived early and could relax, take some deep breaths to calm my breathing and my heart rate which would inevitably rise, and find some inner peace. This meant I could approach things with a clear mind, I had strategy on how to use my time during the exam and I would write this down as soon as I could and stick to it. I also made sure I have some nice sweets or mints to have during the exam, a little treat to keep me going. Again, find something which works for you.
Then as I left the exam, it was just about letting go, I had done all I could it was now a waiting game, but I didn’t want to be anxious until the results were in, so then I did my best to let it go and enjoy myself in the meantime. This can be tricky, and when you notice the anxieties, acknowledge them, but then let them go…
I hope this helps to know you are not alone, that there are others feeling just like you do right now and that so long as you do your best you are already winning, that is the only thing we can control.
I am quite excited as in a couple of weeks time I have my graduation, a time to celebrate all of the hard work I put in, this will be you or your loved one soon, keep knowing that it isn’t forever and you can get through it!
Until next time,