Exam Stress – No matter what phase of school life you are in—whether you are a seasoned student or just starting your journey—when it comes time to take exams almost every student will begin to feel the pressure and stress. Although some people feel that large amounts of stress are simply part of being a student, if that stress is beginning to affect your mental health and wellbeing, it should not be considered normal, and you don’t have to deal with it alone. At Horizon Plymouth our expert team of counsellors is well-versed in helping students manage the immense pressure and loads placed upon them during exams. 

Often, one of the most difficult parts of exam stress is realizing the effect that the stress is having on you. So, how do you know if your mental health is at risk due to inordinate feelings of stress surrounding exams? Although negative stress may build up and manifest itself in many ways, some common signs of overwhelming school burdens may include: 

  • Losing touch with friends and family: Feeling as though the amount of work and studying required of you is overwhelming and insurmountable can lead to inadvertent isolation from those that you love, when in fact maintaining social relationships can provide support and help to minimize the effects of stress. 
  • Changes in appetite: When stress builds up in the body it can cause decreases in appetite or binge eating. As a student it is especially important to fuel your body with plenty of protein, veggies, and whole grains, and stress-induced appetite changes can upset these nutrient requirements. 
  • Physical illness: Most people are familiar with the butterflies in the stomach that accompany feelings of nervousness, but intense feelings of stress can actually make you feel physically ill as well. Your immune system doesn’t function as effectively under stress which can make you prone to sickness or susceptible to stomach aches, headaches, and nausea. It should come as no surprise that when you don’t feel your best it will be much harder to perform your best, which could further exacerbate your feelings of stress.
  • Overwhelming anxiety or depression: Stress can have detrimental secondary mental health effects which can lead to the development of mild to severe anxiety or depression. Although the stress may decrease once exams are over, the effects of anxiety and depression can last much longer. 

Although it might seem like the only way for these overwhelming feelings of stress to go away is for the exams themselves to disappear, working with a therapist can help you explore your reaction to this exam stress and find ways to better manage and cope. This might look like breathing exercises to manage the physiological effects of stress on your body and help to re-regulate, setting realistic goals for yourself to make your workload more manageable, or working on normalizing your sleeping and eating habits. A counsellor might also be able to work with you to find outlets such as exercise or art that can provide a way to relieve and cope with some of your stress. No matter what strategy ends up working for you, the fact is that feeling debilitated by the prospect of looming exams should not be considered normal, and help is available! 

If you are feeling overwhelmed and downtrodden due to the demands and stress of university exams (or even school in general), know that you do not have to work through this burden on your own. Help is available for you at Horizon Plymouth, so give our expert counsellors a call and schedule your initial consultation today. Take time for yourself and your health in order to put your best foot forward during the upcoming exam season! 

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