Managing Exam Stress

Lily is a 16-year-old girl who, like many, this year is preparing for her GCSEs. Lily has previously suffered now and again with bouts of anxiety and depression, related especially to what her fear of what her friends thought about her. Being liked by her friends, their opinion of her, and fitting in is very important to her, as is the quality of her “selfies” on her social media accounts: Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram.

Lily got by without any support and generally kept things to herself. The thought and pressure of doing exams only made her anxiety ten times worse.

Exam Anxiety & Mental Health Downturn

Preparing for exams, and the anxiety of having to sit these and to try to score highly has only added to Lily’s anxiety. Many “what if” statements have regularly entered Lily’s mind, “what if I fail”, “what if I am so anxious, I just can’t face the exam room”, “what if I am sick and my friends see me”.

As a result of exam anxiety, Lily found herself spending even more time on screens (smartphone, tablet games and social media); doing anything except revising or preparing for exams, her routine had completely gone, she would stay up most of the night and sleep most of the morning. Due to this, the following things happened, which negatively affected her mood and behaviours:

• Sleep became very difficult for her (getting by on 4 – 5 hours)
• She started using energy drinks, which made it harder for her to sleep
• Her mood became very low and pessimistic
• She felt completely numb at times
• Several times a week completely overwhelmed by emotion
• Life started to feel more unreal and she felt more disconnected from it
• She became more frustrated with her mum and dad, arguments were a daily occurrence
• She started to post negative comments on social media
• She investigated self-harming

At her lowest mood, Lily started to self-harm, she used this as a way of trying to feel something and as a way of control and even distraction from her negative mood.

Hint’s & tips to help with exam anxiety

• Look after your physical health, as this has a positive effect on your mental health.
• Eat well, eat health meals and snacks and eat often
• Exercise, walking, swimming, gym, running cycling, yoga, get active
• Cut down the energy drinks and get into a good sleeping routine
• Talk about your exam nerves and triggers, and what you find helpful to reduce these
• Try some relaxation breathing and Mindfulness
• Factor in some treats, breaks and me time, it’s important to have things to look forward to, or to have rewards after you have been working hard
• Discuss any issues with exam stress, with your teacher or parents
• Plan your revision, even weeks before your exam and don’t revise close to bed time
• Speak to your GP for support

Help and Support

One night whilst scrolling through Facebook, Lily felt completed lost. Thankfully, she reached out for support and called Darlington Mind: 01325 283169 or 07572 888084 (mobile)

Seeing Things Differently

This support and using some of these hint’s and tips enabled Lily to start to think differently. Instead of comparing herself to her friends and their social media profiles, and being caught up in striving for perfection. She began to accept things as they are, seeing things from day to day, rather than worrying about things she had no control over.

She started to get back into a healthy sleeping routine and limited social media and screen time, especially around bedtime and in the middle of the night. She has been learning to spend more time (Facetiming, Whatsapp and Skyping) with the friends who bring out the best in her and do not pressurise her for perfectionism in an imperfect world.

The new sleeping routine and exam preparation has really helped lesson her anxieties, and also helped to improve her mood.

Lily still has a way to go on her journey, but she is very pleased with the progress she has made over the course of just a few weeks.

If you are going through issues similar to Lily, please don’t suffer alone, we can be that listening ear and help you.

How to Get Suport

We're here to listen and help, non-judgemental, friendly, confidential – call: 01325 283169 or 07572 888084 (mobile) with confidence (weekdays) or email:

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