Staying calm during the A-Level season

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Health Assured team

07 June 2022

After two years at college, A-Level exam season can feel like the last battle in a long race. And everyone will respond to this differently. Exams can bring up a range of emotions, from nervousness and anxiety to dread and stress. Know that these reactions are normal; it’s a high-pressure situation. 

However hard this time might feel, know that this season won’t last forever. You can also prepare yourself to stay calm during these times by taking action and finding coping mechanisms that work for you.

To help you through the A-Level season this year, we’ve put together some tips below to help you stay calm and accomplish your goals. Best of luck!


Preparation is key 

One of the best ways to maintain a sense of calm is by feeling well prepared for your upcoming exams. Try the study tips below and see what works for you:

  • Use coloured pens to create spider diagrams
  • Try our Focus that mind Spotify playlist
  • Seek top tips and key topic areas from your tutors
  • Put post-it notes with revision questions around your house

Remember, don’t put too much pressure on yourself. You’ll have good study days and bad study days—and that’s okay; all you can do is try your best.


Consider the bigger picture 

Exams aren’t everything—so reframe your perspective to take the pressure off. Long term stress about your upcoming exams can leave you feeling overwhelmed, irritable, and drained. Try to protect your health by shifting your mind to the bigger picture. In the long run other things like attitude to work, experience and personal qualities make more of a difference to your future. Remind yourself of this when you’re feeling tense. 


Onwards and upwards

When you’ve completed an exam, try not to ruminate too much on how it went. Worrying won’t change things, so don’t beat yourself up about the outcomes. Instead use your time to congratulate yourself for making it this far and focus on the next steps ahead. Remember to celebrate and reward yourself by taking the time to do something you enjoy.


Speak to someone you trust 

Don’t bottle up stresses and worries about any exam pressure you’re feeling. Speak to others you trust about how you’re finding this proccess. It could be a friend, parent, or university support service. These conversations can trigger little snippets of advice and wisdom that spur you on, and they also help you vent out pent-up emotions. If you don’t feel like there’s anyone you can talk to in confidence, try writing down how you feel. This expression can be a great way to gain perspective and space from difficult emotions.


Breathing exercises  

When it comes down to sitting your A-Levels, you might find that nerves take over. These feelings are normal when you find yourself under pressure, so try not to panic. In these times of stress, it’s useful to have healthy coping mechanisms that can help you maintain calm. One that’s free to use and accessible anywhere is a breathing exercise. Breathing techniques help the body relax, preparing the mind to take on challenges. Try the box breathing exercise below:

Box breathing or square breathing is simple, easy to follow and repetitive, so you can quite easily get in the flow. To use this technique, settle in somewhere comfortable. 

  1. Inhale through the nose four a count of four.
  2. Hold the air in the lungs for a count of four.
  3. Exhale through the mouth for a count of four.
  4. Hold your breath for a count of four.

Repeat the process for around three to five minutes.


Health Assured are here to help

If you have a student assistance programme with Health Assured, reach out to us via the helpline for instant counselling support. Our counsellors have lots of experience dealing with exam stress. They can provide in-the-moment support and offer tools to help you through this time.


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