The lead up to GCSE exams is definitely up there with one of the more stressful moments in life! It is very easy to let stress and worried emotions control you, and when you need to focus on revision and learning subject material, stress is an unwelcome time waster.
In this article we are going to run through a whole range of ways to help manage stress and give you that sense of calm and focus back.
Don't fight the feeling
Recognize emotions rather than fight them. This is the first step in humanizing these 'monsters' and minimizing them to a more palatable level. The more you try and fight the stress and anxiety, the more worked up you will feel. Take a deep breath and put into a sentence, either out loud or in writing, what it is you are feeling?
"I am feeling anxious because I have lots of GCSE French to revise for and my exam is in two days", "I am stressed because I don't know where to start with my revision." "I feel overwhelmed at the number of subjects I have to study for."
Using these examples you are able to articulate how you are feeling and the cause of your stress. This will allow your brain to rationalise what you are feeling and start to identify a solution.
If there's a GCSE topic you can't wrap your head around and it is causing you stress, take a moment and identify what you could do to combat this. Is it talking to a teacher, finding other other revision resources, or asking a family member or friend to explain it in a different way? Summarising what it is you are feeling gives you the mental space to take a step back from your emotions and think of a conclusion.
Take a break, have a snack
Don't beat yourself up. If it feels like you have been staring at the same book or re-reading the same page over and over again and the information just won't stick in your brain, the worst thing to do is get frustrated and force yourself to keep re-RE-reading. Take a short break.
This is often your brain's way of saying it is saturated with information already and it needs a moment to absorb all the other information before it will accept any more. Allow your brain to switch off for a little bit so it can convert the information to memory. Do a mindless activity like going on a small walk, or some exercise, make a drink or snack. Give your brain the space both physically and mentally before going back to the books. Your brain will thank you later, and you may even find the page you were re-reading suddenly makes sense.
This follows the 'Pomodoro' focus effectiveness technique, which we apply to revision in this article
Organisation is your BFF
It is so true when people say a cluttered space is a cluttered mind. It is impossible to stay focused on the task in front of you if the space around you is full of distractions.
Make sure you have a clean area to work in so that you can remain focused on revision and your exams. This goes for your revisions notes and cue cards too, organise these in one place per subject and in a logical sequence.
Take some time before you start revising to organise the space around you. Having a clean and clutter/distraction-free work environment will give you a sense of accomplishment before you have even opened the books and will put you in a good mindset to start revising.
Same thing goes with your revision timetable.
If you don't know which exam comes next or what subjects you need to be revising, how can you revise efficiently? This in itself can cause major stress! Create an exam timetable somewhere that you can clearly see.
We recommend hand writing this out to help commit it to memory. Write down the date and time of your exam, what the subject is, and the location if your exams are spread across different areas.
Revise smarter by prioritizing the upcoming exam. Why spend ages revising for a subject that's in three weeks' time if you have an exam in the next couple of days that you've not even opened the text books for? Be smart with your time to avoid stress.
You are not alone
Absolutely everyone in the world feels stress at some point or another. Fact! If you find that you are particularly struggling with stress and anxiety in the run-up to your exams there are many ways, besides making sure you are revising efficiently to help manage stress.
Talk to someone. Sometimes it can be comforting to hear that someone else is feeling the same as you. Talk to other friends sitting exams, and share your worries together, you may be able to help each other out. Or talk to a trusted support; parent/ adult/ teacher/ therapist. Whoever you feel comfortable sharing your emotions with will allow you to get it off your chest and find other methods to help manage your anxiety or stress.
Journaling can help. It is very easy to let your brain run away with thoughts about what is causing you stress and anxiety and sometimes create irrational thoughts. It can be hard to identify these at the moment because they can feel very real, however, it's imperative to remember that an irrational thought, by definition, is a thought that has no concrete evidence.
What do you know is 100% true? Allow your rational brain to take over and stop your thoughts from spiraling. An example of an irrational thought could be "i am going to fail my exams and bad grades means I will never be able to find a job or do anything successful."
Yes, if you don't study and don't do well in your exams you may end up with grades not as high as you would like, however, the fact that these grades define your whole life and everything in your future is false. It is possible to re-sit exams, many people without GCSE's or exams have gone on to get jobs, start their own business and be very successful. So keep things in perpective.
Journaling these thoughts will allow you to more easily see which thoughts are irrational and hold no truth. In turn, help reduce stress.
Stress, although can be viewed as a negative emotion, means you care. You wouldn't be stressed about something you have no interest in or care about, so use this as motivation to succeed in your exams and work hard. This is just one period of your life and it is worth applying yourself during this time. But remember, if you are feeling overwhelmed or anxious, take a step back. What can you control and change? Can you share your feelings with someone to help? Stress is a human emotion and it's important to not let this get the better of you. We are wishing you all the luck in your exams. You've got this.