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What is Stress?

There’s no medical definition for stress, however, we all know what it’s like to be stressed. When we talk about feeling ‘stressed’, it’s usually linked to situations or events that put pressure on us, or our reaction to being placed under pressure. It can feel very overwhelming, but there are ways to manage your stress.

Everyone experiences stress differently, both emotionally and physically.

You may feel:

  • irritable, aggressive, or wound-up;
  • anxious;
  • depressed/low mood;
  • neglected;
  • like you have lost your sense of humour;
  • unable to enjoy yourself.

It’s important to remember these feelings will and do pass.

You may notice physical symptoms, such as:

  • shallow, rapid breathing;
  • panic attacksproblems sleeping, muscle tension, tiredness, headaches, and feeling sick/nauseous.

What causes Stress?

Feelings of stress are normally triggered by things happening in your life, for example, times of uncertainty or facing big changes. Young people particularly feel stress due to: exams and getting good grades, meeting life’s expectations, balancing their work and free time, overload of homework, fear of failure, challenging family lives, and the peer pressures that arise. To feel stress in these situations is completely normal, but it is important to not let it get out of control.

Everyone gets stressed during exams. But do not lose sight of the fact that there is life after exams. A little bit of stress can be a good thing as it motivates us to knuckle down and work hard. But exams can make stress levels get out of hand, which can stop us from performing our best. So, it’s important to address it and get it back under control. 

The amount of stress you feel depends on a variety of factors, these include: your perceptions of the situation (this can be connected to your past experiences, self-esteem, and thought processes), how experienced you are at dealing with a particular type of pressure, your emotional resilience to stressful situations, the amount of pressures you face at the same time, the amount of support you receive.

How can I manage my Stress?

There are various steps you can take to help you cope with being under pressure, different tricks work for different people. It is important to find one you feel comfortable with and works. You can:

Identify triggers: this can help you anticipate problems and think of ways to solve them. You cannot avoid all stressful situations for example, taking exams, but by being prepared it can help you.

Organise your time: identify your best time of day to deal with the task (i.e. you may be a be a morning person or an evening person), make a list of things you have to complete, set smaller and more achievable targets, try not to do too much at once, ask someone if you need help with your work load and remember to take breaks, take things slowly.

Accept the things you cannot change: it is not easy, but accepting that there are some things happening to you that you probably can’t do anything about will help you focus your energy to being more productive.

You could also try something like ecotherapy: it is a way of improving your wellbeing and self-esteem by spending time in nature. This can include doing physical exercise in green places or taking part in gardening or a conservation project.

Tips to help you deal with Exams:


  • Learn to recognise when you’re stressing out. A break or a chat with someone who knows the pressure you’re under will get things into perspective.
  • Avoid comparing your abilities with your mates. Everyone approaches revision in different ways, so just make sure you’ve chosen the method that works best for you. Make a realistic timetable. Stick to it.
  • Eat right. Treat yourself like a well-honed machine – eat fresh fruit and veg and have a proper breakfast. Fuel your brain as well as your body – no one can think straight on coffee and chocolate.
  • Sleep well. Wind down before bed and don’t revise under the duvet – your bed is a sanctuary, not a desk. Get your eight hours.
  • Exercise. Nothing de-stresses the mind faster than physical activity, so build it into your timetable. Being a sloth makes our mind sloppy too.
  • Panic is often triggered by hyperventilating (quick, shallow breaths). If you feel yourself losing it during the exam, sit back for a moment and control your breathing. Deep breath in and out through the nose, counting to five each way.
  • Steer clear of any exam ‘post-mortem’. It doesn’t matter what your mate wrote for Question 3(b), it’s too late to go back and change your answers, so it will just make you worry even more.
  • Ultimately, don’t lose sight of the fact that there is life after exams. Things might seem intense right now, but it won’t last forever. 


Useful Contacts:


Be Mindful

Be Mindful provides information on mindfulness and mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR). It also provides guidance on how to learn and embrace mindfulness as well as course listings.

Mind Tools

Information on topics including stress management and assertiveness.

NHS Choices

Information about stress and tips to manage and tackle your stress.

Stress Management Society

Information about stress and tips on how to cope.


Information about stress and techniques for coping. Lists several talking treatments and alternative therapies that can be used to treat stress.

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