The Ultimate Self-Care Guide: Exam Edition

a coffe cup sitting on a desk near a computer and a notebookWritten by: Fiona Lee: 4th Year Medical Sciences

Photo by: Lukas Blazek on Unsplash

With final exams coming up soon, there’s no doubt that many of us will be feeling extremely stressed, drained, and burnt out. Although it may seem like there’s a never-ending mountain of work piling up ahead of you, there are definitely things that you can implement into your daily routine to help ease some of your stress! As someone who is now in their fourth year of university and has gone through many stressful midterm and final exam periods, I can confidently say that (through a lot of trial and error!) I’ve discovered some tips and tricks that can help keep you healthy and sane this school year. Hopefully, some of these tips work for you too – good luck!

Be Kind to Yourself.

It can be easy to be hard on yourself whenever you aren’t able to accomplish everything you want to, causing feelings of stress and disappointment to pile up. I’ve found that the most important aspect of self-care during exams is to be kind to yourself, and recognize that you’re only human! Developing a more accepting relationship with yourself is very important (arguably more important than your relationships with other people), and doing so can benefit your overall mental and physical health. In one of the classes that I’m taking this year, we touched on a concept called ‘Ubuntu’, which refers to displaying humanity and compassion towards others in society. In my mind, it’s just as important to display the same amount—if not more—of Ubuntu towards yourself as well, especially during tense exam periods.

Another part of being kind to yourself is allowing yourself to have time to do the things you enjoy! Setting aside time for hobbies or relaxation is important in preventing yourself from feeling burnt out, and can help you feel more energized and well-rested for when you do start to work. Some things that I like to do to relax are: playing basketball, taking naps, watching Netflix, and putting on a relaxing face mask!

Plan, Not Procrastinate.

Planning out a study schedule and setting concrete goals can help ease some of your stress during exams. Doing this far ahead of time will help to make sure that you allocate enough time to finish everything that needs to be done—nothing feels worse than having to scramble to finish assignments the night before they’re due! It’s also important that the goals that you set are realistic: this means being honest with yourself about how long certain tasks will take, and how much time you can realistically spend being focused and studying in a day. I’ve found that by setting realistic and attainable goals, I’ve been able to finish more tasks and cross them off of my to-do list, which has helped immensely with boosting my motivation! Breaking assignments into smaller, more achievable tasks can also help to prevent yourself from becoming overwhelmed. If you’re a chronic procrastinator like me, you’ll find that implementing these planning tips will help to prevent you from procrastinating!

Stay Mindful.

There are many mindfulness activities that you can participate in: meditating, yoga, writing in a journal, or going for a walk outdoors (just to name a few!). Engaging in these quick activities will provide a refreshing break from your work, and allow you to relax a little bit. Personally, I’ve found writing in a journal to be helpful in providing a stress-free space for me to write down any thoughts or feelings I have. Writing out these emotions on paper oftentimes makes it feel like a weight’s been lifted off my shoulders, which helps me to focus better on my work later on as well.

Form a Support Network.

One of my biggest takeaways from the COVID-19 pandemic is that it’s extremely important to surround yourself with friends and family who care for you. With schoolwork and exams moving to a primarily online format this year, there’s no doubt that everyone has experienced their own set of unique challenges. Forming a support network provides you with individuals that you can depend on and talk to, and this can be extremely valuable especially in stressful times. Although forming this network may seem daunting at first, it can be as easy as reaching out to an old friend or a classmate, and simply asking how they’re doing!

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