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A’ level and GCSE Exam Stress – a few top tips to beat the stress

To help you get the most out of the last few days of revising time, we have put together this list to help you on your way to exam success!
1. Water/hydration
2. Food/nutrition
3. Sleep
4. Study Posture
5. Exercise/breaks
6. Study technique
7. Mental attitude
8. “Ice cream time”- rest and recuperation for body and brain
The brain needs water to work. The body is made up of 80% water. If we don’t hydrate our bodies enough the brain and nerve cells of the body will struggle to work as efficiently. And the thinking and learning will become slower and sluggish.
Try do have a pitcher of water next to your desk so that you are reminded to drink regularly. And bring water in for exams if you are allowed. Remember that coffee and tea does not equal water, in fact it is recommended that you drink a glass of water for each cup of tea or coffee. Try to drink 6-8 glasses a day. Avoid caffeinated fizzy drinks as they will stop you sleeping and make you jittery.
Nourish your brain with healthy food. Try to eat 3 main meals a day and have a healthy snack every three hours to keep your glucose level steady. This is not a time to diet, but you need to feed your brain with good nutrition for learning and concentration.
Five vital rules to keep your energy level through the day:
 Eat breakfast. You need to fuel your body for the day. This essential for your body and brain.
 Eat fewer carbohydrates at lunch as it will make you tired. Add more protein to all meals.
 Reduce caffeinated and carbonated drinks, especially after lunch.
 Cut down on sugar as it will give you a short lived high and a dip later.
 Eat more complex carbohydrates such as brown/rye bread, oat cakes, brown rice and pasta, grains and seeds.
In fact the more regularly you eat the less you will feel the need to snack.
Try to have simple healthy snacks in the house, oat cakes, carrot sticks, seed and nut mixtures, healthy bread and cheese.

One of the first things that may affect you during this time is sleep, which is mostly due to stress.
Many students skip sleep and night cram as much as possible in the last few days. But this is the time when you do need your sleep and to let the brain organise the learning while sleeping. It sounds strange but you do really learn while you sleep. And apparently your IQ can be raised even with 30 minutes more of sleep.
We have a good article on our website with tips for sleep, but the latest research is not to watch TV or work on small screens up to an hour before going to bed. This is because the smaller the screen and the closer your eyes are to them, the more the brain will think it is daytime and light the brain activity up.
Do get as much exercise and get fresh air during the day, and don’t eat too late. Cut down on caffeine after lunch, sugar and rich and heavy foods. Some people find meditation tapes help or listening to calm music such as Mozart and John Levine tapes. Keep the room dark and aired and for sleep if possible.
Study posture
Most students will spend a lot of time studying on the sofa or their bed. This can stress the muscles and can create tension which can lead to backache and headaches. This may in turn affect your ability to focus during exams.
 We recommend that you do most of your computer work at a proper desk with a good supportive chair.
 You can make your laptop into a PC by folding it out and up on a lap-top stand and get a spare keyboard and mouse. Make sure the screen is at eye level.
 Do your study reading sitting upright and supported so you can keep your neck straight. Many people find sitting on gym balls really helpful as you are moving and keeping your core strong as well as sitting in a better position. You can also buy a simple seat wedge which is a cheaper option than getting a new office chair and encourages you to sit properly.
 Take frequent breaks and move around so you will avoid stiffening up your muscles and shoulders.
We have a brilliant animated film on our website about posture with computers which you can find under the Luck’s Yards film tab.
The more you need to learn, the more you can benefit from exercising. The busier you are the more important it is to exercise. It has been shown that the fitter you are the better your brain works. You literally get more blood flow to your brain but you will also get better stamina and learning capacity. So try to find the sport that suits you best and which is easy to get to and schedule it into your day. Running and walking are obviously easy and will also give you oxygen and fresh air. But swimming, dancing and sports are also good and good distractions from the concentration. Yoga and Pilates are also very good as the help with stress management, breathing, calming down as well as core strength.
Study technique
We recommend that you plan a shift of 3-4 hours of concentrated studying, and during this time set your phone or egg timer at 45 minute intervals with 15 minute breaks. When the time is up take a short break, stand up, do our stretches, walk around the house, jump on the trampoline, get fresh air, and drink water to reinvigorate your body for the next session. When you go back to studying again you will find that you are ready to focus again. Many people carry on for too long and find that their brain will start to overload. They are wasting really important learning time and could focus better with shorter burst.
Collaborate: What may work for you is to find a study partner who is at the same level as you and also share the same commitment. Work on your own in the morning, and plan to meet for a few hours later that day. Plan what you are going to discuss and stick to it. Then when you meet and work-shop you can teach each other and share the learning. This way you will know where your gaps are and you will learn from your study partner. There is no more powerful way than to teach someone else, and it often makes it clearer in your head when you know your learning gaps. But make sure it is someone whom you feel absolutely comfortable but also will push you to do your best.
Learning types
To get the most out of your learning it helps to find out how you learn the best. It may be that you need to sit in solitude, with others, in lights, with soft music or loud, or with headphones. Some people prefer fresh air others will lock themselves in a dark room. Some people need to move about others can sit for hours focusing. Here are some tips for you:
Visual: If you are visual you will find mind-maps and strong colours very helpful. They have been designed to mimic your brain pattern and how it works. When you are in the exam you will be able to go back to the mid-map and remember where on the page the information was.
Verbal: In this case you may need to hear what you are learning. Then you can record yourself and walk around your room while you are talking to yourself (Memory walk). It can also be helpful to stand on one leg, or on a rocker board while memorising facts out loud too. Telling it to others can be helpful too. You may need to repeat it several times too.
Tactile: In this case you may need to draw on big A3 papers with lots of colour, and or repeat it lots of times. Use the whole body in different ways. Maybe you need to hold a squishy ball in your hand to help the learning. Juggling is another good tool. Use memory cards and change from left to right hand. Put a piece of paper on the wall and draw with your left of right hand. This will engage the whole brain in a different way. Stand on your left foot and then right and do your repetitions. Cross crawl like the Grand of Duke of York which will engage the whole brain too.
Auditive: Some people find music helps like Mozart and alpha music by John Levine, and other classical music. And some people may need to have head phones to take out all other sounds. Equally to use mnemonics might work with lots of pointers to remember. Some find them easier in a song.

Mental attitude
Learning is for life, and however frustrated it becomes, you have chosen your subjects for your GCSE, AS and A levels as well as University. So try to enjoy them. If you know that you get nervous for exams, try to imagine how you are coming in the exam and how you will enjoy practicing what you have learnt. And then literally block out the result. This way you will focus on delivering your knowledge and your brain will be more positive in its ability to do so. If you only think of the result, you will get more worried, breathe shallower, and become tense and more stressed.
The journey is the learning, the application of the knowledge, not the results. It is also the ability to use your skills after School/University. It helps you mentally to focus on the exam but not the results. This is where relaxation techniques, yoga, hypnotherapy, EFT, acupuncture and mindfulness can be incredibly useful as if will put you in a more relaxed and alert state of mind.
You might find the stress from the others around exam will get to you. Then take headphones and your best music to school and shut yourself out to keep your cool. Avoid those who will influence you to get worried, and hang out with positive and calm people before exams. These techniques are very helpful and we can help you find the right therapist for you in the area.
Ice cream time
This is the deserved break you need to re-energise your brain, and also have fun while your brain is actually assimilating the information you have put in it. Creating a space to breathe, relax, have fun and chill out is really important. You do not need to be a wreck after exams, there is a life after exams, but actually during too. This is why we call this the survival guide.
We hope this has been helpful.