We’re all feeling under pressure. We’re tired, confused, tense, overwhelmed, stressed, worried that we won’t do well enough.
In recent years, the number of young people in Britain seeking counselling over exam stress has increased by 200%, according to the child protection campaigners NSPCC.
In a survey last year among 1,000 UK teenagers showed 78 per cent expect exam stress to have negative impacts on their appearance, health or mental state during the revision period.
Students from East Barnet School explore their experiences with the stress associated with exams. They touch on procrastination, avoidance tactics and on coping strategies.
Scroll down and use the slider tool to see how this group responded, and to view relevant statistics and quotes they wanted to share. The images on the left show how the pupils felt, while the images on the right provide information on each issue.
Exam results & high expectations!
— by Kathleen Wilkinson
I’m in year 13, my final year before I go to university. At times I get incredibly stressed because I know I have to achieve certain grades to get a place on the course I want.
I found the transition from year 11 to sixth form very challenging and I’m constantly asking myself, “Why am I so tired all the time?”
Maybe it’s not just me, though: teenagers are sleeping less than they ever have, partly because of increased social pressures and external factors, such as having mobile phones in our bedrooms. Stress and worry often cause tiredness.
The stress from expectations you have for yourself, and from others, can really affect you mentally and physically. I do try to tell myself not to get stressed by what others say, and to remind myself that as hard as it is right now, to keep going. Deep down I know there are good things ahead!
For tips and advice on looking after your mental health, see Young Minds.
I’m 15 and under the most pressure I’ve ever known
— by Cameron McTeare
As if we didn’t already know that exam time is stressful, support organisations are warning that it’s getting worse. Last year Childline reported a rise of 20 per cent in calls from young people worried about exam results, compared to the year before.
I’m not surprised. I’m about to do my GCSEs, and really feeling the pressure. My friends and I are overwhelmed by work, and worried that we won’t get the grades we need. There are high expectations from teachers, from parents, and from ourselves.
In my case, procrastination makes it even worse — I always delay doing homework or revision until the last minute. I’ve tried ways to make myself start earlier, but it never works.
Procrastination is actually quite common. According to Psychology Today, 20% of the world’s population are chronic procrastinators. And Dr Piers Steel, author of The Procrastination Equation, says students are biologically and socially predisposed to put things off until tomorrow.
Procrastination can also be a common problem for people with anxiety-related conditions, and unfortunately, putting things off usually just adds more stress and anxiety to your life.
Get help on coping with exams from Mind.
I’m afraid others will judge me for admitting I’m stressed
— by Samantha Gentle
The jump from GCSE to A-level is a big one, and for most people in my year it’s brought on an increasing amount of stress. For me, exams aren’t the only cause of stress: as well as revision, I have to keep up with ongoing schoolwork, extra tutoring, choosing university courses, and a part time job.
The combination of all these things, and me being a perfectionist, I always putting pressure on myself. This has almost brought me to breaking point. There have been nights when I haven’t been able to sleep because of stress and overall fear of failure.
Yet, I always feel like I can’t admit that I’m stressed or struggling with something. I think others will judge me, even if they might be going through it as well.
I’m not alone: nearly 3 in 4 young people fear the reactions of friends when they talk about their mental health problems.
It seems to me that schools could do a better job of supporting young people; after all, over half of all mental ill health starts by age 14, and 75% by age 18.
One headteacher has claimed that mental health is still taboo in schools. This is due to staff shying away from dealing with difficult issues, and focus instead on finding someone or something to blame such as poor parenting, lifestyle or technology.
In my school they started offering our year weekly mentoring with a tutor, when you can talk about your subjects and any stresses you’re going through. It’s a good start, but I still wish it was easier to be open about your mental health.
Love your mind!
— by Aron Chase
People are always talking about getting physically fit and healthy. It’s far less common to think about being proactive in taking care of your mental health.
Although it can feel like we don’t have any control over what we think or how we feel, small changes can make a real difference. Just as you’re supposed to eat “an apple a day”, or get your five fruit and veg each day to stay physically healthy, it can be helpful to think of the five activities that help you personally to keep your mind healthy.
That’s the thinking behind Mindapples, a campaign that’s trying to make taking care of our minds “as natural as brushing our teeth”.
What would your five-a-day be?
Want to explore exam worries, mindapples and stress monsters in more depth? Listen to East Barnet students including Kathleen, Samantha, and Cameron on the Exposure podcast.
Exam related stress is on the rise
Remember: Exposure is always looking for young writers so if you feel strongly about something email firstname.lastname@example.org.