Tackling exam stress

A teacher's guide to supporting well-being

Exam season is stressful for everyone – teachers, colleagues, students, parents – the list is endless! As educators, we’ve got to juggle our worries about ensuring our students are prepared while supporting students’ well-being through this worrying time. If we let exam stress run wild, it can seriously put pressure on teachers’ and students’ mental health, well-being, and resources.

Creating a supportive school environment that builds resilience in schools is key. We need strategies that give staff and students useful tools for sailing through exams calmly and confidently. With the right game plan, we can help everyone power through feeling prepared for exams rather than overwhelmed by them.

This guide covers practical self-care tips for teachers and pupils, fostering a supportive staff and school culture, spotting student stressors, creating a chilled classroom atmosphere, developing a positive mindset, and more. By working as a team with empathy, we can navigate exam season in a balanced way that prioritises well-being.

How might exam stress affect me and my mental health?

Exam stress manifests itself through a range of physical and psychological symptoms, such as:

  • difficulty concentrating,
  • irritability,
  • muscle tension,
  • panic attacks,
  • feelings of dread.

For teachers, added triggers can include fears around ensuring students are prepared, work overload, and doubts about professional competence. Students face pressures from perfectionism, parental expectations, and the perception of exams as high-stakes obstacles. Understanding these complex factors is key to managing exam stress effectively.

Professor giving exam results to university students who are under exam stress

When the exam period starts here are our top 5 tips to prepare

1. Mix It Up

We all learn differently, so switch up revision techniques. Visual learners prefer such as flashcards and colourful mind maps, while hands-on types benefit from practice papers. Variety keeps things engaging and caters to every learning style.

For students with different learning styles or who may be struggling, it may be beneficial to recommend additional resources they and their parents can utilise outside the classroom.

2. Extra revision sessions

Hosting optional extra revision sessions allows keen students to go over tricky topics and different subjects, ask questions, and feel that extra bit prepared when dealing with exam stress. Just be mindful of not overloading and making them feel worse!

3. One on one

Set aside time for individual face-to-face catch-ups, or offer the chance for study group to come together either during lunch or after school for young minds to come together and offer advice to one another. This gives students a judgement-free zone to voice worries or fears about exams.

4. Study tips & strategies

Share your arsenal of effective study habits and exam techniques. Teach skills like memory tricks, time management, and avoiding procrastination that’ll serve them for life.

5. Calm classroom

Finally, cultivate a relaxing, low-stress classroom environment. Allow break-out zones, implement chilling mindfulness activities. Making your space a soothing exam retreat works wonders.

The key is tailoring support to individual needs. With a little empathy and creativity, you can be the supportive guide that steadies your students during exam crunch!

Positive coping strategies to support students dealing with exam anxiety

As teachers, the pressure we feel during exam periods can be immense. Between ensuring our students are prepared, dealing with stressed colleagues or parents, and balancing our regular workloads, burnout is a real risk.

We must prioritise our own mental health and well-being during the exam season so that we can be and remain the first point of call for stressed pupils during exam time.

Here are a few of our top tips for dealing with exam stress and anxiety for school staff:

Prioritise self-care:

Make sure to get enough sleep, eat healthily, and take regular breaks. Anxiety can mess with your appetite, but nourishing your body with healthy meals and a balanced diet provides energy to power through.

Plan and organise:

Coping with exam pressure can be challenging for young minds, but one of the biggest tips is to get organised! Create a study schedule and step away from the books for a dopamine boost, whether it’s listening to music, watching a funny video, or just getting outdoors.

Practice relaxation techniques:

One way that has been proven to reduce anxiety is to explore deep breathing exercises, meditation, and mindfulness, which can help reduce stress levels in everyone from young people, to teachers and parents alike. Taking some long, calming breaths can work wonders for hitting the reset button on anxious thoughts.

Stay active:

Regular exercise can boost your mood and help you feel more focused. Getting your blood pumping out in the fresh air with exercise releases feel-good endorphins. Even a quick walk around the block can clear your head.

Reach out for support:

Talk out your exam stress! Venting to a friend, family member, or a member of school staff about your worries can help put things in perspective.

A male teacher handing out exam papers to students in a exam hall. He is offering them encouraging smiles and words to help them tackle their exam stress.

The key is finding coping strategies that work for you and making self-care a non-negotiable during exam crunch time. A little proactive stress-busting goes a long way, especially if your young people are planning to go onto higher education, university students will need to able to cope with exam stress and pressure of university if they are to succeed in their chosen degree.

As a teacher, your role during exam season is to offer guidance and support if pupils are struggling with exam pressure and their mental health.

The main thing to remind students is that exam results do not define their worth as an individual and during this stressful time it is important young minds are able to speak about their mental health and exam stress.

More from Connex Education

As we strive to meet the diverse needs of neurodivergent learners, quality training is essential for educators. Connex Academy, the sister brand of Connex Education, offers a range of affordable and free courses to help with the pressures of exam season: 

By enrolling on these courses, professionals and parents alike can gain valuable knowledge and strategies for creating a supportive and friendly environment, understanding the unique strengths and challenges students face during exam season, and learning how to effectively support their mental health and well-being appropriately with compassion and understanding. 

Why not check out our latest teaching and education roles, we recruit for a variety of role on both permanent and short term contracts, click here to find out more 

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