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Top 5 tips for coping with exam stress

Whether it's GCSEs, A levels, IB Diploma, or end of year exams you are about to take, it's natural and normal to feel some stress or anxiety about them. If exam stress is starting to feel overwhelming, there are many strategies you can use to help manage it. This blog post shares the top 5 ways BGS counsellor, Monique Perez, recommends to cope with exam stress. These tips were shared with our Sixth Form students recently and we hope they are helpful to anyone about to take exams in managing stress.


  1. Talk – Firstly, admit how you are feeling and speak to someone you trust. It’s only once you talk to someone you trust you can access the necessary help that is needed, whether it’s speaking to your teachers, friends, family etc.
    Speaking to someone is vital especially if the anxiety and stress is overwhelming. Plus, it’s okay to feel the way you do as exams are stressful so speaking to someone helps.
  2. Exercise – over exercising is not healthy but having a balanced exercise routine is good; at least 30 minutes of exercise every day is recommended. When we exercise our body releases feel good chemicals that work in the same way as pain killers do; lifting our mood, reducing anxiety and helping us to sleep…. And we all know sleep is especially important before exams as it helps us to reduce stress even more.
    Try: As you take your study break, try jogging on the spot, raising your hands in the air and touching your toes. Make sure you give yourself plenty of room and be careful. Do this for as long as you can and tailor this exercise to suit you. Here is an example of a study break workout
  3. Slow breathing technique called box breathing. The idea of box breathing is to lower your heart rate. When we exhale, the signals that control our heart rate are altered and making our heart beat slower. A reduced heart rate makes us relax.
    Try: Closing your eyes, imagine a 2D box, you can only see the front part of it and as you draw the first line of the box, inhale slowly for 3 seconds and then as you draw the bottom line of the box, exhale slowly for 3 seconds. Repeat this as many times as you like, and you can inhale and exhale for a longer time. Here is a video to demonstrate further
  4. Taking a break – An example of this is to work for 45 minutes and take a break for 20 minutes, for example to socialise with friends or family. Locking yourself in your room for weeks is not good, we should try to make some time to hang out/speak to our friends and family as socialising is a scientifically proven relaxation booster.
    Socialisation increases a hormone that decreases anxiety levels and makes us feel more confident in our ability to cope with stressors. In addition, spending time with others directs our energy outward (rather than inward). So, try to take a break to socialise.
  5. Look after yourself whether that be writing your thoughts in a journal to de-stress, trying out a grounding exercise., treating yourself to a well-deserved treat, getting organised beforehand so you avoid overwhelming yourself i.e. breaking up your work into chunks and creating a daily timetable, not comparing yourself to others, drinking plenty of water or eating a regular balanced meal.

    Wishing you all the best in your upcoming exams – you got this!!