Minding your mental health during deadlines and exam season

18 May 2019

In honour of Mental Health Awareness Week and the ongoing exam period I thought it might be a good time to discuss some simple ways of caring for your mental health during stressful times. When it comes to the crunch time of deadlines and exams the first thing that seems to suffer is your mental health, we all have up and down days and it would be wonderful if I could snap my fingers and feel brilliant again but sadly its not that simple. Instead it's more realistic to take small measures to prevent your mental health from slipping. Here are couple of things I can recommend to look after yourself through exams and deadlines.

1. Leave the house every single day. 
This is a piece of advice that I certainly needed to take. During vacation period its easy to become a bit of a hermit, especially when you don't need to go to campus, or you're back at home without easy access to a library. During the final stages of my dissertation I didn’t leave the house for SIX whole days. Whoops. This is a super unhealthy habit which definitely made me feel like I had cabin fever. Eventually my family had to force me out of the house to go for a walk around the block. I did come back feeling a lot better and I wish I'd made it into a little routine to go for a short walk every day just to get some fresh air.

2. Don’t compare yourself to other people 
Again this is a terrible habit which I found exacerbated by social media. It increased my stress levels as I was looking around at my classmates who had already finished their diss, had it bound and handed it in when I still had to write another 1500 words and finish another essay. Of course, it all ended up being okay in the end and I got everything in on time so by comparing myself to other people I just created a load of unnecessary stress. 

3. Take pride in your appearance
Just because you're working from home or in the library doesn't mean you should dress like a slob. Try to get ready as you would normally if you were going into uni. This is a great way to maintain your routine and get yourself in a productive mindset. The saying always goes that when you look good you feel good and it definitely seems like getting up and ready for the day creates the right mind set and leaves me ready to actually get on and do some work. Another added benefit of getting ready properly is that I don’t get all those judgmental looks from the postman. 

4. Get a change of scene 
You've probably heard the phrase 'a change is as good as a rest' and when it comes to exams or deadlines this couldn't be more true. Personally, I like to switch up place which I'm working in throughout the day. In the mornings I would work in the kitchen because its bright and airy and in the evenings I would move back to my desk for a change of pace, I really found this to be a great way of blocking out my time and maintaining a routine. Sometimes a change of scene is all you need to refresh your brain and crack on with a new task. 

5. Don't bottle up your feelings
Last but certainly not least is the old classic, communication. It's so so important to talk about how you're feeling when you're under stress. But don't make the mistake of waiting until you feel overwhelmed, have a quick chat over a cup of tea every couple of days or as often as you feel it's needed. Let your close family and friends be your support network and update them on how you're feeling. I also found it useful to discuss my work goals with family and have other people hold me accountable for staying on top of my workload. This way I avoided the stress of leaving everything to the last minute and had someone to help and support me through mental blocks. 

These are just a few simple ways of looking after your mental health during exam and deadline season. This is by no means and exhaustive list, and of course what works for me may not work for others, it's best to try a couple of different techniques and see what works best for you. But whichever methods you choose, taking some small steps to look after your mental health will always be worth it in the long run.


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