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Exercising Self-Care During School and University Exams

As exam season approaches, the pressure mounts, and the temptation to push yourself to the limit can be all-consuming. But amidst the whirlwind of revision notes and practice papers, it's crucial to prioritise your well-being.

Taking care of yourself isn't just a luxury; it's a necessity for peak performance and long-term success. Here's targeted advice for school-age students, whether you're navigating GCSEs, A-levels, or university exams, on how to strike a balance between academic rigour and self-care.



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For GCSE and A level Students

Create a Revision schedule: 

Organise your study sessions into manageable chunks, and make sure you build in dedicated time for relaxation and rest between them. Aim for a balance between subjects and perhaps allocate more rest time following the subjects or tasks that you find the most challenging.

Remember that finding the time to take a break or even remembering to do so can be hard; if you put them into your schedule, you will be reminded to take guilt-free breaks of a sufficient length to keep you mind at peak efficiency! Check out our guide on creating an effective study space at home for more tips on efficient and healthy self-study. 

Practice Mindfulness:

Incorporate mindfulness techniques into your daily routine to reduce stress and improve focus. Take short breaks to practise deep breathing, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation.

Online mindfulness sessions or podcasts can be helpful if you’ve never done something like this before; for example, the Oxford Mindfulness Foundation has a series of both paid and free resources to help students develop mindfulness techniques to help deal with periods of stress.

Stay Active:

Regular exercise is a powerful stress reliever and mood booster. Incorporate physical activity into your revision breaks, whether it's going for a walk, doing yoga, or playing your favourite sport.

If you can find the time to play sports or move your body with friends or family, even better, since this takes us onto our next piece of advice…

Connect with Others:

Maintain social connections with friends and family to combat feelings of isolation and stress. This can be in the form of socialising during study breaks (although this does require self control to make sure you don’t spend too much time ‘on break’ with your friends) or you can study alongside friends.

Working together can be a good tool to test one another or mark each other’s work, or can just provide some comfort in sitting next to a fellow classmate in silence.

Get Enough Sleep:

Prioritise sleep to support cognitive function and memory consolidation. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night, and establish a relaxing bedtime routine to signal to your body that it's time to wind down. Fitting in extra study time by getting up early and going to bed late is all very well, but what’s the point if you’re too tired to remember anything?

Nourish Your Body:

Fuel your brain with nutritious foods that support concentration and energy levels wherever possible. Stay hydrated throughout the day, and opt for brain-boosting snacks like nuts, fruits, and whole grains, alongside the odd treat to help incentivise and make your study time a little tastier!

Practice Self-Compassion:

Advice for all seasons: be kind to yourself, especially during challenging moments. Celebrate your achievements, no matter how small, and recognise that setbacks are a natural part of the learning process. Of course you should learn from mistakes, but punishing oneself rarely improves your output and often just leads to a poor outlook! 



For University Students

Establish Boundaries:

Set clear boundaries between study time and leisure time to prevent burnout. Designate specific hours for studying and honour them, but also prioritise time for relaxation and self-care.

Explore Relaxation Techniques:

Experiment with different relaxation techniques to find what works best for you. Whether it's listening to calming music, practising mindfulness, or indulging in a hobby, make self-soothing activities a regular part of your routine.

Utilise Campus Resources:

Take advantage of the support services offered by your university, such as counselling, peer support groups, and wellness workshops. These resources can provide valuable guidance and assistance during stressful times.

Engage in Creative Outlets:

Find creative outlets to express yourself and alleviate stress. Whether it's writing, painting, cooking, or playing music, engaging in artistic pursuits can provide a welcome distraction and promote mental well-being.

Prioritise Sleep Hygiene:

Maintain healthy sleep habits by sticking to a consistent sleep schedule, creating a comfortable sleep environment, and avoiding stimulants like caffeine and screens (not just phones but also laptops and televisions) before bedtime. Alcohol can also have a big impact on sleep quality, so keeping drinks to a sensible minimum can also be a good idea,

Practice Time Management:

Break down your study sessions into manageable tasks and prioritise them based on importance and deadlines. Use tools like to-do lists, calendars, and productivity apps to stay organised and focused.

Seek Support:

Don't hesitate to reach out for support if you're feeling overwhelmed. Whether it's talking to a friend, family member, or professional counsellor, sharing your feelings can provide relief and perspective.


Remember, taking care of yourself isn't a luxury—it's a necessity. By prioritising self-care during exam periods, you'll not only improve your academic performance but also cultivate habits that will serve you well throughout your life. So, take a deep breath, listen to your body, and remember that you're capable of handling whatever challenges come your way. You've got this!


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