How I’m coping with exam worry during the coronavirus crisis
Anna has some advice for helping you study at home while looking after your mental wellbeing
There is no doubt about it - these are worrying times. We have never before experienced such life changing measures to deal with a global threat in our lifetimes. Many people across the world are experiencing anxiety about the threat of coronavirus. For students, it’s unclear what will happen with our Leaving Certs, with our futures.
If all exams were to be cancelled, the questions race around my head; how would our marks be determined? Will I be able to get a place in university next year? Will we all have to repeat the year? Right now exam stress is being made even worse with the huge worry of the coronavirus adding to it and the fear of the unknown of what will happen next. Here are some of the ways I have found are helping me cope with exam stress and anxiety during this time.
Study as normal and take breaks
We should all try and keep studying as normal. Though there is a possibility the exams might not go ahead in June, we need to prepare as if they will. Now that we aren’t at school, it is an opportunity to fully plan out your study. Most schools are using online learning during this time so make sure to engage with your teachers on these platforms and ask them any questions you have. They are there to help you.
If you are studying, take regular breaks. I have found that the easiest way to do this is to stick to my normal school timetable, beginning at nine and ending at four. Between each “class” I have timetabled I will get up, have a walk, or even go get a cup of tea for a few minutes just to keep me alert and focused for the next “class” because I find if I sit in one place for too long with no break I lose motivation and focus. Sticking to my school timetable means I’m spending the right time on each subject. It also gives life a sense of normality during these upsetting times.
Set realistic goals and try not to be hard on yourself
When you are organising your study, set realistic targets and goals for yourself - avoid timetabling yourself to have 15 chapters done in one day. It isn’t realistic and you will put yourself under a lot of pressure. In reality most to-do lists are usually overly ambitious and it's easy to let ourselves feel bad if we don’t finish everything on the list. Be realistic with what you can get done in a day. In the long run you will feel better for the little bit you did get done rather than pushing it all to do tomorrow.
If you don’t feel able to do any work one day, don’t make yourself feel guilty for it. Self care needs to come first and some days we need a break from study and that’s okay. You need to do what’s best for you. Be kind to yourself, especially during this worrying time.
Make use of online resources
Many companies such as EDCO, Folens and CJ Fallon have made their online e-books free to students and EDCO have provided online versions of their popular revision books, ReviseWise, for free also. iRevise is offering a month free of their services and many grind schools have YouTube Channels where they have uploaded useful videos. Websites like 625points have lots of free resources too. Make use of any online resources you can. We are all in this together and many people are doing anything they can to help exam students during this time.
Try and separate your sleep and study spaces
If at all possible you should try and separate your sleep and study spaces. Of course a lot of people don’t have this option but if you are studying in your room, I find it is easier when I don’t study on my bed. We all associate our beds with relaxing and sleeping and in general you won’t be as productive if you study on your bed. Separating your study and sleep space can let you feel like you can escape from study when you finish for the day. Now that we all have to stay at home it can feel a bit suffocating not to have a break from your studying environment.
I recommend putting your books away when you finish studying for the day. As the saying goes, out of sight, out of mind.
Make your study space a bright, positive space
Another thing I found helped ease my anxiety around studying is to study in a bright room. That means whichever room you’re studying in, open the curtains and let in the natural light. I have found that studying in a bright room lifts my mood, especially on sunnier days (as sunny as we can get in Ireland!) If it’s getting late, make sure your room is well lit, it can make a big difference.
Keeping your workspace tidy seems obvious but once again this small step can really affect your mood while you study. Having a tidy workspace always makes me feel much more calm and collected about the work I need to do.
Making your workspace a positive place can help lift dread about studying. Maybe you could light a scented candle, play some calming music or put decorative things around your desk or study area, anything you want!
Make time to relax
When we were at school it was easy to separate our study time with our time to relax. Now that we have to study from home full time, that line has become blurred. Check in with your friends and family over text or video calls. Continue to make time for your hobbies as a way of de-stressing from exams and from coronavirus anxiety in general. Self care is so important especially during these upsetting times
All in all, though the exams are a huge source of worry right now we have to remember to look after ourselves and look after each other. If you or anyone you know feel overwhelmed this exam season about exams, Covid-19, or anything happening in your life, you should talk to a trusted friend or family member (over the phone, video call or by text if you do not live with them) or if you don’t feel comfortable doing that there are lots of resources that are available so you can speak to someone non-judgmentally about anything that is bothering you. You can also take a look at SpunOut.ie’s article on mental health supports available during the Covid-19 pandemic.
At this worrying time it’s important for us all to look after our mental and physical wellbeing because we are all facing this pandemic together. Remember, stay safe, social distance and wash your hands!