Tuesday, 21 April 2015

How to survive the exam period

How to survive exams

Oh, exam time. It's really difficult anyway, let alone if you're suffering with your mental health. My exams don't actually start for a few months but for most people the exam period is looming - so I thought I'd share a few of my tips about how I get through them even when I'm suffering with my depression.

1) Take regular breaks
I know, I know - everyone says this. But it's so true. Make sure you schedule breaks and reward yourself when you get to them. I don't usually set time limits - I set page limits. So I'll let myself have a break after revising 4 or 5 pages and will have some chocolate or go and chat to a family member or friend. Or even just check Facebook. I also make sure that I give myself loads of time for lunch and have an adequate amount to eat - I'll often sit down in front of the TV and watch a programme for an hour or so (house programmes are always on around lunch time).

2) Let yourself nap if you need to
This is a big one that I have to do for my mental health. I suffer from daytime sleepiness with my depression and find I start to drop off if I'm concentrating for too long, so I allow myself to have a couple of hours' nap in the afternoon, then wake up ready to take in some more information. I used to feel really guilty about doing this but then I realised that it was the only way I was going to get my work done. However if you are sleeping all day you probably need to stop doing that - I have some tips here on how to combat tiredness.

3) Keep hydrated
I must drink so much while I'm revising - I think it's out of boredom! But I find it stops me from getting headaches and keeps me more alert. I will often have a pint glass of water or squash next to me (plus the toilet breaks are a welcome pause from revision!).

4) Schedule your revision
I always feel better when I know exactly what I need to do each day - but I don't beat myself up if I don't reach my target as I always overestimate the amount I can do. Knowing what you want to achieve helps to focus your mind on what you need to do that day - but at the same time allow yourself a bit of flexibility as you won't be able to stick to it all of the time.

5) Revise somewhere that you feel comfortable
I always have to be in a really quiet space when I'm revising, but I know other people like to have music in the background. Find out what works for you and which area of the house is best - I quite like sitting at the dining room table where I can still see what's going on, but am away from distractions like the TV.

6) Keep snacks close by
Studying is hard work - I get so hungry and often need to grab something quick (my healthy eating goes out the window for a couple of weeks). Give yourself treats, or if you want to stay healthy I find that dried fruit or nuts is always good. Keep your energy levels up so that you can continue to concentrate throughout the day.

7) Revise with someone else
Us medics have practical exams to do so we're forever finding victims to use a stethoscope on, and I find that it really does help to practise in a group. But revising the academic stuff for written exams with someone else is also really good - often you'll find that things you don't know they can explain to you, and vice versa, and you remember funny little conversations you had about how to remember things.

8) Give yourself plenty of time to unwind before bed
Don't work right up until you get into bed - you will struggle to sleep then. Do things you enjoy in the evenings - take a hot bath or read a good book (see my post here on how to relax). Make sure you get plenty of sleep at night as trying to work when you are exhausted is near-impossible.

These are some of the tips I use to keep myself sane during the exam period. My mental health actually tends to improve when exams are looming as I find that as I have to keep myself busy I don't have much time to think about anything else. I guess another point would be to find the best way to revise for you - I tend to write out my notes, draw spider diagrams and create flashcards, but different techniques work for different people.

Today I have been a lot better than yesterday, but still feel like I need that little bit of extra help. I've been very sleepy but have tried to get on with my work, and managed to get myself out of bed this morning to go into uni. I will get there!!
If you are always trying to be normal you will never know how amazing you can be.
                    - Maya Angelou

PS Please donate towards my sponsored skydive for Mind here, or text MIHV99 £1 to 70070 - thank you for your support!


  1. Great advice Hannah, I'm currently freaking out about my summatives!
    Thank you for the award nomination, I have answered your questions in my latest blogpost

    Hope you're doing well :)



    1. You'll be fine Kate! I really enjoyed reading your answers :) xx

  2. Your tips are excellent, most of those are things that I do too. Taking breaks is so important and I forget quite what a difference they make until I start making sure I have some! I do try to set myself times - I'll even sometimes set myself an alarm to make sure I stop, even if it's just for 10 minutes. I try to get away from my desk, maybe just moving to my bed to check twitter on my ipad or simply to go and empty the dishwasher or something!
    As for revising with friends - I have great memories of the nights before second year exams, sitting in the lounge with my housemates coming up with ridiculous ways to remember facts, particularly for pharmacology. We came up with some really long winded things about mirtazapine and it being something to do with Moaning Myrtle sitting in the 5th toilet! Funnily enough it did actually come up in one of the multiple choice questions and we all still remember that now!
    Jennifer x
    Ginevrella | Lifestyle Blog

    1. Thanks Jenny! Yes breaks are probably one of the most important things on this list. Ahh yes thinking of ways to remember facts can induce some hilarious conversations! We have a way of remembering nephrotic syndrome - it sounds like 'erotic' which means you wouldn't want blood, so therefore it's protein... Haha you'll never forget those things though! xx

  3. Wish I read this before I finished my second year finals at uni last week!! Such an informal piece! :)


  4. These are some great tips! I need to keep them in mind for my upcoming exam period :)

    Kisses, Kali