What are the signs of exam anxiety and what can I do?

Exam season is in full swing Credit: Press Association

Exam season is in full swing with the majority of GCSE and A-level assessments beginning this week and running until the end of June.

With many students still feeling the effects of the Covid lockdowns - having missed many weeks of lessons - stress levels are likely to be particularly high.

But how can you spot the signs of exam anxiety in yourself or a family member, and what can you do to stop it?

According to Centre 33, a charity supporting young people in Cambridgeshire, these are some of the key signs of stress and anxiety:

  • Struggling to sleep

  • Negative thoughts about the future

  • Feeling irritable

  • Increase or decrease in appetite

  • Not being able to enjoy other things

  • Feeling tired all the time

  • Loss of motivation

  • Frequent headaches or stomach aches

What are the best ways to deal with exam stress and anxiety?

The charity, which was set up in Ely in 2005, offers these top tips for dealing with exam stress and anxiety:

  • Break it downIf you're struggling to find the motivation to revise because of exam stress, try looking at it as a series of smaller jobs that you can tick off one-by-one in manageable chunks.

  • Ground yourselfIf you start feeling overwhelmed or are having negative thoughts, try a "grounding technique" to settle your brain. They can work well just before going into an exam. For example: look around and name five things you can see, four things you can touch, three things you can hear, two things you can smell and one thing you can taste.

  • Square breathingIf you find yourself stressing out in the exam hall, find a square or rectangle somewhere in the room and let your eyes follow one edge while breathing in for four, breathe out for four on the next side, in on the next side, and finally out for four on the final side.

  • SmileFind something to make yourself smile. It could be a YouTube video that makes you laugh, or doing something creative like drawing, crocheting or practicing a new football trick.

  • Prioritise sleep, food and exercise It may feel like you do not have time for those things - but you will study and perform far better in exams if you are well rested, fed and take a break.

  • Don't compare yourself with othersEveryone learns differently and reacts in a different way to exams. Just because a friend seems more relaxed, or someone on social media claims to have it all sorted, does not mean you are not doing well.

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