Spring has sprung. The sun is back, London is experiencing decent temperatures and the city is more lively than ever. Yet, Summer Term can be challenging—even depressing—for students. Exams are coming and it can be a lot to handle. But, for me, there are some ways to approach this period more serenely.
As a perfectionist, assessments have always been a huge source of anxiety for me, and I used to feel disheartened and depressed as exams drew near. Recently, I have tried to devise some ways to cope with these negative feelings, and I would like to share some of them in this blog. Nevertheless, we all have our own ways of dealing with stress and discouragement, so it’s important to learn to know yourself and try diverse methods to pinpoint what really works for you. That being said, some of these tips that have helped me, might be helpful to you too.
I have noticed that bad thoughts often surface when I’m exhausted, and especially when I’m mentally or emotionally tired. Everything seems a little darker when I’m sleep-deprived. I realised that lack of sleep could induce my brain to make me believe that I’m not good enough, that I’m going to fail my exams, or that my friends hate me. But I know it’s only fatigue speaking and so I’ve learned to silence that voice—or at least stop listening to it. I focused on my sleep schedule and I try to sleep for 8 hours a night where possible, or to at least get as many 8-hour nights as being a student allows. These changes really improved my mood. Our body and brain need some rest, even more during the exam period when we are revising all day and need a clear mind. A sufficient amount of sleep helps to make my bad thoughts go away and makes revision more efficient, since sleep helps our brain take in what we learn. However, I know that it can be hard to fall asleep early when your sleep schedule has been a bit messy for some time. It’s been helpful for me to put my phone away and delve into a nice book before going to bed, since I find reading particularly relaxing.
To fight exam-season blues, nothing is better than treating yourself to your favourite things. During this period, I feel like I need to indulge myself by buying my favourite dessert or going to a nice restaurant during a revision break, for example. Treats don’t necessarily have to be food though. You can treat yourself to new music, books, or anything that makes you happy. The key thing is to not neglect yourself. This time of the year is tough and you’re doing you’re best. You deserve some treats to cheer you up!
The key thing is to not neglect yourself. This time of the year is tough and you’re doing you’re best. You deserve some treats to cheer you up!
If psychological exhaustion is bad for your mood, physical fatigue is not! Exercising can be a nice way to release stress and (momentarily) forget about exams. What’s more, physical fatigue can help you fall asleep more easily at night. I noticed that I often struggled to sleep, even when I was exhausted after a day of studying. However, on days I managed to exercise a bit, it was a lot easier to fall asleep. This may not work for everyone, but exercise has been beneficial for me during stressful periods. Besides, with the return of sunny days, you can exercise outside and take it as an opportunity to get some fresh air (see next point).
During revision periods, I used to lock myself in my room and not see anyone. But self-isolation is so 2020! Now, I’d rather study in the library or in a café instead of my room and I force myself to go out during this period. It’s easy to stay inside your room studying all day if you’re not careful, but leaving your flat or dorm during revision has several benefits. First, you’ll be able to get some fresh air and enjoy the sun, especially if you go to your destination by foot. The vitamin D that your body absorbs is good both for your mood and your health. Second, you’ll see human faces and this always lifts my mood! If you’re lucky, you’ll even find familiar ones and have a small chat before going back to your class notes. Even if you prefer to study at home, I’d recommend taking breaks to go for a walk to clear your mind and help you focus better in the long term.
Check on your friends
For me, the exam season often brings about a feeling of loneliness. As I mentioned earlier, it’s easy to cut myself off from my loved ones when I’m stressed and swamped with work. But it’s important to remember that we’re all in the same boat. Since my friends were secluding themselves too, I started believing that they didn’t care about me, which wasn’t true. Checking on my friends ended the vicious cycle and I realised that they were in the same situation as me and that they were happy that I got in touch with them. Checking in with your friends enables you to talk about what you’re going through and to mutually support each other. After catching up by text message or phone call, why not take a one-hour lunch break together? Don’t see it as a waste of time in your revision as you have to eat anyway!
Checking on your friends enables you to talk about what you’re going through and to mutually support each other.
Wrapping up, perhaps my experience reminds you of your own feelings. In this case, the five tips I have listed above might be helpful to you. Otherwise, don’t hesitate to test different methods and listen to yourself to understand how your brain works and what works best for you.
There is one last piece of advice, however, that I think might be universal: don’t put too much pressure on yourself. There’s a reason you’re at LSE. You’re certainly part of the brightest students in the country and probably have a brilliant future ahead of you. So, take a deep breath and start believing in yourself. You’ve got this!
In case you are struggling, please reach out to LSE for support.