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  • Writer's pictureEmerald Therapy Services

Managing Exam Stress

It’s exam season, which means there are probably thousands of stressed-out young people out there right now (and if they’re anything like me as a teenager, they’re cramming in lots of last-minute revision!)

Feeling stressed around exam time is a normal and common feeling for most young people, in fact, did you know that a small amount of stress is actually good for us? “Helpful stress” is short term and can help motivate or inspire you to reach your goals, focus your energy and enhance your performance. However, there are young people who can struggle with overwhelming “unhelpful stress”, which can tire you out, lead to anxiety, effect concentration and decrease performance.

Whatever stresses your young person may be struggling with, we’ve listed our top tips below to help get them through this exam season! Some of these things you can support with, and you can also share this blog with your young person if you think they’ll find it useful too.

1) Zzzzz Sleep

We know young people are sick and tired of us banging on about getting enough sleep, but it’s such an important part of taking care of yourself and managing stress! A good night’s sleep is one of the best revision tools you can have. During sleep, your brain is processing everything you’ve taken in that day, helping us to create memories and hold information. A poor night’s sleep could result in anything you’ve learned that day being completely forgotten.

We understand that a good night’s sleep isn’t always so easy for some young people, so we’ve left a great resource below for some great tips and support on how to improve your sleep. The Teen Sleep Hub even has a free eBook for young people to download, which was designed by other young people, to help build awareness and improve sleep.

2) Take A Break

We know that there can be various pressures on young people to be doing as much revision as possible. We’ve heard of some schools recommending at least 2-3 hours of revision a night; including the lessons young people are already doing in school, as well as any extra curriculars, this can be a lot!

Make sure both you and your young person ensure they are having breaks and some downtime for themselves each day. Revision breaks are not only good for your mental wellbeing, but they actually increase the effectiveness of revision too. So, whether they want to rest by watching TV, going on a walk, reading a book or just having a scroll through Tik Tok, its important they still feel able to do the things they enjoy.

3) Plan Something To Look Forward Too

You know the feeling when you have something exciting planned soon, and thinking about it can help get you through a tough day or week? Well, it can be helpful for young people to have something to look forward to during exam season!

If you haven’t already got something fun planned, why not sit down with your young person and ask them if there’s anything in particular they want to do once their exams are finished, encourage things that you/they can realistically do. This can be anything from a concert/show, a trip somewhere, going shopping, or even something as simple as a family night, where they get to choose the food and entertainment (films, tv shows, games etc.)

4) Creating A FLEXIBLE Revision Schedule

We know young people have heard all about revision timetables before but hear us out! Lots of schools encourage creating a revision timetable, and we agree that for some young people, this can be a good way to stay on track and focused coming up to exams. However, we know that the idea of a schedule can be daunting for others, we’ve heard young people even telling us a schedule makes them feel worse and more stressed if they don’t stick to it.

Our biggest tip is creating a realistic, flexible schedule, that fits you rather than you having to fit it. It’s easy to get caught up in an unrealistic “ideal” and schedule multiple

hours of revision every night! But think about what will be

easier to stick with; do you have any clubs in the week, are

there nights after school when you know you just want to rest (hello Friday nights!) and plan around these.

If your young person is still resistant to a schedule, that’s okay! Perhaps encouraging them to set specific, measurable, realistic goals instead, such as “This week, I really want to go over this topic” rather than “This week I want to revise every day.”

Remember, its important you still have time to rest, do any extracurricular activities you enjoy and spend time with friends and family, so make sure to build these into a schedule if you want to use one.

5) Breathing before exam

The clock is ticking away, you feel like the invigilators are watching your every move, you’re afraid to make a noise in case everyone looks at you; exams can be stressful and scary situations for lots of young people!

Some might struggle with overwhelming anxious feelings or maybe even panic attacks in exam situations too.

Whether your young person struggles with anxiety or not, we highly recommend using a breathing exercise to help ground and calm you when you go into an exam. Rather than immediately opening the exam paper and trying desperately to get started before time runs out, take a moment to do this simple technique instead:

With your eyes open or closed, inhale slowly through your nose, focusing on your belly rising and feeling both your feet firmly on the ground. Exhale through your mouth, and as you do, drop those shoulders, unclench your jaw, letting go of any tension anywhere in your body.

You can repeat this breathing however many times you need, and remember, you can also repeat this throughout the exam if you feel your stress levels rising at any point.

It’s better to use a minute or two of your exam to breathe and

calm down, than to lose far more than that through panicking.

6) Relieve The Pressure, Results Aren’t Everything.

Repeat after me, you are worth far more than results on a piece of paper. Your personality, your dreams, what you care about, all the things others love about you, isn’t reflected in some exam results.

Whilst we understand many young people (and their parents) want to do well in exams, it’s important to take a step back sometimes. The most important thing a young person can do is try their best; and we don’t mean try their best by revising hours and hours on end, compromising their mental health, and feeling constantly stressed. We mean trying their best to prioritise themselves and their goals in a healthy and balanced way.

Perhaps regularly reminding your young person that your love for them isn’t based on their exam performance and telling them you’re proud of them regardless of their grades.

We hope you and your young person finds these tips useful! We’ve left some links below for more information and support around exams and mental health if you want to check them out too.

If your young person feels they need further support through either through holistic therapies or counselling, we have several therapists here at Emerald who specialise in working with children, teenagers and young adults. Please feel free to go check out our Meet The Team page and get in touch for further information at


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