How to handle your results day anxiety
We understand that waiting to find out your exam results can be an extremely nerve-wracking experience.
It is important to know that feeling some level of stress is a completely natural reaction. But, if it becomes persistent, if it never seems to relent or give you a moment of peace, it is important to take action to stop these nerves from affecting your health and well-being.
Dr Hayley van Zwanenberg, a consultant child and adolescent psychiatrist at Priory Group has looked at ways you can reduce your stress to prevent it from affecting your physical and mental health.
It’s good to talk
There will always be someone you can talk to when you feel worried about your exam results or your future. Whether it is your parent, carer or a friend, discuss your thoughts and emotions when you feel troubled. A parent might be able to help you challenge your worries by providing you with evidence that your thoughts are not a balanced view. For example, they will be able to reassure you about how much revision you did and how well you have performed in past exams.
You may want someone to lend an ear, distract you with a quick chat or offer advice. By taking the time to access this emotional support, you have the opportunity to let off steam to prevent your feelings from boiling over.
When you get anxious, your ‘fight or flight’ response kicks in, where your body releases adrenaline and increases your heart rate. Breathing deeply can help your body to settle down to a more natural state. Imagine yourself blowing into a balloon. As you take a deep breath in, notice your stomach rising as you allow your lungs to take in the maximum amount of air. Then slowly breathe out imagining you are filling the balloon with air. Try and do this three times.
Keep yourself busy
Try and ensure you have structure and activities each day. For example, give yourself a project to complete over the summer, look at voluntary or part-time work, organise social activities with your friends and help out at home. If you keep yourself busy, you have less time to sit and dwell on your thoughts. You will also feel better about yourself as you have been able to achieve something.
Getting good quality sleep
We understand that getting a good night’s sleep may seem impossible because of your nerves, but it is important to try your hardest to get into a good routine.
Go to bed and wake up at similar times every day, and make your bedroom a relaxing space away from mobile phones and other screens, where all screens are turned off at least an hour before you want to fall asleep. Avoid caffeinated drinks in the hours before bedtime and try to fit in at least 20 minutes of exercise every day – but not too close to bedtime.
Form a plan for results day
Think about all the possible outcomes for results day and jot them down. Then, write down a potential plan for each of those outcomes. For example, if you were to get your expected grades, what would happen? And if you got lower than expected, what would then be your next steps?
This can help you to recognise that there are options and a future, regardless of what happens. It can stop you from worrying about the unknown, as you have a plan for every possible scenario.
Tackle your negative thoughts
It can be easy to gravitate to the worst case scenario when you’re feeling anxious. Do you believe you failed an exam spectacularly? Or do you think that you’re going to get terrible grades across the board? There are steps you can take to question and alter these thoughts:
Completing this activity at the end of every day will stop you from focusing on potential negative outcomes during this stressful time.
If your stress levels don’t seem to be getting better, it is important to visit your GP. They will be able to offer you help, and provide you with access to the right support you may need at this time. You should also talk to your parent or carer, and think about accessing the support available from ChildLine or the Samaritans as they will be able to offer you advice.