10 Efficient Ways to Deal with Exam Stress

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Written exams for the Irish Leaving Cert commence this Wednesday the 9th of June at 9:30 with English and will, for some subjects, run until the 29th of June. 

I think now is the time for you to put down the books and read this article instead as I will deliver 10 important tips that will help you survive the exam stress.

This article is in three parts and they are all equally important, so make sure you read until the end.


1. Remember this is Only an Exam

As important as this exam can be for you, in a few years time, it will be a long-forgotten memory. Mine was about 15 years ago and I only have very few memories of it.

The rest of your life will not be determined as to whether or not you’ll get the points for that college. There are way many more factors that are going to be part of how your future will be shaped.

I know for the past year, you’ve been told how the Leaving Cert is THE exam you need to pass. How the marks you’re going to get are THE most important ones.

It’s not true. Your life is only beginning and the number of points you’re going to get at the Leaving Cert will only be important for one week after the result at most.

Nobody will ever ask you about them. 

College will have way more importance in shaping your future career than the Leaving Cert ever will.

2. Check on your Success Bank

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you’re familiar with the concept of the Success Bank as it was mentioned in a few articles.

If you’re not, here’s your recap. A Success Bank makes it your duty to bank all your success. It directly impacts your level of confidence. Think of all the times when you were successful.

To build your Success bank, use a clean jam jar. Any container will do, but the jam jar offers the added bonus of being transparent which helps the process. Make a list of all your past achievements, create pieces of paper where you can transcribe your text. Fold each piece of paper a few times and place them inside your container. Put it on your desk or your nightstand as a permanent reminder of all you’ve achieved so far. It will help you get confidence in your chances to succeed again.

If you want to read the full article Set Yourself up for Confidence and Success”, click Here.

3. Keep Fun and Chill Time as Part of your Day

Because it’s exam time, doesn’t mean that fun is forbidden. If anything, fun and relaxation should be part of your day every day.

Make sure you schedule downtime when you watch a TV show you like, chat with your friends on WhatsApp or Snapchat, watch some funny videos or Reels. Just do something that you know is going to make you smile.

You will not learn anything new 48 hours before an exam. Now is the time for consolidation only. This means you better use your time to rest and chill now.

It is important you do it because if you do not relax now, you will arrive at the exam with your anxiety all bottled up inside and ready to explode. Once you’ll be sitting the exam, your mind might go blank, not because you forgot everything, but because your brain is in emergency mode due to the excess stress that was not dealt with and it prevents it from retrieving information. It’s too busy ringing all the alarms and triggering the emergency protocol.

Your brain hasn’t evolved much since prehistoric times. It still associates stress with danger. When you’re in danger mode, your brain considers it more important to try to get you out of danger by making you run away or play dead. But it’s definitely not in its plan to retrieve information.

So to avoid that from happening, relax on a daily basis. Let all your stress out a little every day. This way you will arrive at the exam with your brain all clear and ready to serve your need to remember your learning.

4. Visualise Yourself Succeeding

Another powerful function of the brain: your imagination. 

A great exercise you can start doing every day is to picture yourself at the exam table and see a paper to which you know the answer and just watch yourself nailing it.

You might find this idea ridiculous. But indeed, picturing yourself succeeding is a wonderful exercise to prepare you to sit it. It will make you more relaxed and ready.

The more you focus on all the positive things that can happen on the day of the exam, the better you will feel once you sit it.

If you have difficulties picturing success but instead start catastrophizing, I suggest you read this other article `How to Stop Catastrophizing and Reduce Anxiety” Here to help you deal with your inner dialogue.


5. Take Care of your Physical Health 

You need at least seven hours of sleep in order to have a proper rest. So get your sleep on. Studying until 2:00AM is not going to help. On the contrary, it’s a sure way to arrive at the exam tired and to perform poorly. So make sure you go to bed early enough, turn off your phone and try to sleep.

If you have difficulties falling asleep either because you’re stressed or not tired, try listening to a guided meditation to help.

You also need to eat right and drink plenty of water. Now I’m no nutritionist so I won’t give you diet advice. The only thing I can say for sure is that a well-hydrated brain is a happy brain. At this time of the year, we need to drink more even during the colder time. 

So make sure you drink plenty of water and do not skip breakfast. Otherwise, you will not have the energy to go through a full exam. Your brain needs fuel and in its case, it comes from food as well, especially oily food such as nuts and seeds.

6. Take Care of your Mental Health

It’s kind of common for some people, during exam time, to overshare their stress and spread it to others. Some people can’t help but start talking about how stressed they are, about their predictions about what topic will be on the exam. The truth is none of them will know what the exam will be about. This is all just speculation and their way to deal with exam stress.

You need to stay away from any type of negative energy and focus on getting yourself calm and ready for the exam. If you find it difficult to set boundaries with people, I recommend you have a read of my article on the subject Here.

It’s also important that you take breaks. Your brain can only function up to a certain point. There is a time when it will need to get a bit of a break. Look up out the window and try to think about something else for a moment. This is a very important exercise to do between finishing your draft and transcribing it in your copy. It gives time to your mind to recharge, unzoom from the picture and be more able to spot tiny mistakes and typos.

Whenever you feel anxiety is taking you over during an exam, remember, just take three deep breaths. It’s a very simple yet very effective exercise. Take the time to fill your lung and picture the air coming in through your nose, travel all the way down to your belly, come all the way back up and exhale through the mouth. 

Bonus point if while breathing in, you picture white light coming in and while breathing out you picture all your stress coming out as dark smoke.


7. Celebrate

Yes, you read that right. Celebrate your success. You sat all your Leaving Certs exams and you’re still breathing.

If that’s not a success I don’t know what it is.

But more seriously. Yes, you deserve to celebrate. You really should take the time to acknowledge what you’ve accomplished.


8. Relax - Unwind

This year’s LC results will not be available until the 3rd of September. So the faster you forget about it, the more of your summer you will enjoy.

You’ve just spent months, if not weeks locked inside studying followed by intensive exams. Now is the time to take a deep breath and just chill. Whether it is doing the opposite by being outside all day, getting fresh air and connecting with the outside world or finally getting to spend quality time with your favourite series that you had neglected these past few days.

The important part to remember iìhere is, it’s over. You can relax now.

9. Catch up With your Friends and Family

Another aspect of being full-on into your exams is that you don’t get to spend as much time with your friends and family as you wish to.

So now is the time to reunite with them.

There are so many activities we can now enjoy again, it’s time to take full advantage of them and enjoy a wonderful summer with the people you love and missed.

10. Nothing

Well yes, of course.

You actually do not have to do anything. If you feel like staying home and doing nothing. That’s allowed too

You’ve just been through one of the most stressful times in your life. You deserve a bit of res and to be left alone

That’s for sure your choice.

I hope this article helped you put things in perspective and encouraged you to take good care of yourself during this exam period.


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