As spring begins, schools and colleges will be abuzz with preparations for public exams. For students, this can be a stressful time, especially with current curriculum changes removing opportunities for modular exams and retakes, putting more pressure on the short few weeks in May and June.
This can sometimes lead young people to experience stress and anxiety beyond the pressure everyone feels. Seventy-five per-cent of mental health issues start before the age of 18, but 45% of 13-19 year-olds aren’t sure where to find help.
The experts at Pixel Learning have developed a new workshop for schools, ThinkWell, to provide a supportive environment to discuss mental health and demystify some of the stigmas surrounding it. They also provide signposting for young people so they know where to turn.
One of the key issues can be letting stress get on top of you. So, what are Pixel’s top tips for maintaining mental well-being during the exam period?
1. Build in breaks. Whilst it’s important to schedule revision carefully with a timetable, breaks shouldn’t be left out. Regular rest and relaxation can help the brain recover and let information settle. It could be as simple as making time to eat dinner, or you could introduce a few yoga moves or even mindfulness to your routine to take your mind off the work.
2. Get moving. Why not make the break an active one? Going for a walk or popping to the shops can be refreshing and the NHS advises us that exercise can boost our mood.
3. Reward yourself. Plan to treat yourself at the end of a session, perhaps with a small snack or chat with a friend. Rewards can also be a great way to reinforce habits, so you might plan a bigger treat if you complete a task several times.
4. Sleep. You can’t revise all night, so choose a sensible time to wind down and stick to it. Do something different right before bed, like taking a bath or reading a book, so the exam isn’t playing on your mind.
5. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Chances are, lots of friends and family around you will have been through plenty of exams themselves and might be able to give some advice or just lend a friendly ear. Get someone else to test you on your material or ‘teach’ them a topic to help cement your revision further. If you feel like things are getting tough, consider getting in touch with services like Childline or Get Connected. They offer free counselling for young people.
Pixel Learning’s ThinkWell workshop initiative was launched in Dunraven School, London. Dunraven School is part of the SSAT network – find out more about membership here.