Coping with exam stress

Both exams and the anticipation of results can be a stressful time. The Mix gives you some tips for getting through it.

A young person is on their laptop laughing with their friend, who sits behind them

Why am I so stressed by exams?

Exam stress could be caused by:

  • Pressure from parents and relatives to do well
  • The need to get high grades to get on track for the career you really want
  • Uncertainty about what to do next – “There are so many options, what if I make the wrong choice?”
  • The feeling of everything changing in your life – you have moved away to university or going to new college for example.

These fears and concerns are completely natural – your mates are probably feeling exactly the same, whether they let on or not. If these anxieties start to overwhelm you, don’t worry – there are things you can do to help look after your mental health.

What is stress?

Stress is the reaction people have to excessive demands or pressures. It’s very common to feel stressed around exam time. You might feel there’s a huge amount of pressure to do well, or anxious you can’t fit all the revision in. The build-up to results day can also leave you feeling overwhelmed and run down. Read our guide to understanding stress.

Not only does stress mess with your mind – in extreme cases it can affect your physical health. Stressed out people have higher blood pressure. They are also prone to heart disease, colitis (inflammation of the bowels), thyroid disorders, and ulcers. But don’t worry – it’s extremely rare for stress to get so far out of control, especially if you deal with it when the first symptoms appear.

What are the symptoms of exam stress?

  • Difficulty getting to sleep or difficulty waking up in the morning
  • Constant fatigue
  • Forgetfulness
  • Aches and pains for no apparent reason
  • Poor appetite
  • Social withdrawal
  • Loss of interest in activities
  • Increased anxiety and irritability
  • “Flying off the handle”
  • Increased heart rate
  • Migraines/headaches
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness

Everyone has bad days, but if you’ve noticed three or more of the above symptoms and you’ve experienced them for some weeks you may need to do something about your stress levels. Visit your doctor (GP) to rule out other possible reasons for the symptoms such as depression. If you are stressed, your GP may be able to advise you.

How can I deal with exam stress?

If you are suffering from stress, try some of the following ways to calm down and relax:

  • Try to make time for yourself away from your studies to wind down. For example, relaxing in a warm bubble bath, listening to soothing music and shutting out the world for a while.
  • Take time for your mind and body to relax. Chatting with friends, meditation, yoga or just watching a bit of telly can take the edge off.
  • Take time to exercise. Regular and frequent exercise is a good stress reducer.
  • Eat well – skipping meals will deplete your energy and leave you drained.
  • Talk to your family and friends. Make time to see your mates will help you unwind and let you unburden any problems.

For more tips, read our coping with stress factsheet

Get in touch with our team who are there to listen and support you on any issue

Student Minds is the UK’s student mental health charity. Search their website for information, research and to see how you could get involved or explore Student Space for support through the pandemic.

For revision tips, head to this Student Minds article.

Check out this Student Minds resource on exam stress

Next Steps

  • If you're under 25 and would like free confidential telephone counselling from The Mix to help you figure things out complete this form and we'll call you to arrange your first session.
  • Student Minds is the UK's student mental health charity. Search their website for information, research, and to see how you could get involved.
  • The Mix's Stresshead tool was designed by young people to help relax and distract you when it all gets too much. It also has great stress-relief advice.
  • Chat about this subject on our Discussion Boards.
  • Need help but confused where to go locally? Download our StepFinder iPhone app to find local support services quickly.


exams| stress

By Holly Turner

Updated on 25-May-2021