Nicola Morgan

Author, Speaker, Supporter

Understanding and Supporting Your Teenagers – few spaces left and I’m not doing it again!

Don’t ruin the Christmas holidays with exam stress

Lots of young people, with exams on the horizon in 2019, risk having their Christmas “holidays” marred by exam stress, and we need not to let this happen. But how? I have some advice.

I want to tell you all the relax and take a break because I know that a break does us good and makes us work better but I also know that it’s no good just telling someone not to be stressed, to take a break and forget about exams for a few days. A conscientious and/or worried teenager (or anyone coming up to something difficult and challenging) will naturally and unavoidably carry on worrying. It’s really important for such people to find ways to be able to get enough work done, to feel in control and to have some relaxation time.

So my advice is about moderation, planning and pacing.

My short, simple ebook, Exam Attack treats these pre-exam months in the same way as an elite sports coach would treat the lead up to the Olympics or any other major competition: it isn’t only about the actual skills your sport requires, but equally about the mental and physical preparation through food, stress management, sleep, relaxation, and being prepared for what will be expected on the day. Exam Attack gives you lots of practical advice, from things that can be started several months before exams to others that will help you as you walk towards the exam itself – and even afterwards, if perhaps the exam has gone badly.

If you read Exam Attack now, as the holiday starts, it will give you a sense of control and help you realise that you will do yourself no favours by working too hard over the holidays. Doing your best is going to involve looking after yourself well, too. You are not a machine but even machines have to be treated well if they’re to perform at their best.

Here is how to make the Christmas holidays work for you

  1. Work out what you genuinely need to achieve during the holiday. Do not make this list too daunting: you do not need to revise every subject! You will not be working every day and on the days when you’re working you will be working no more than half a day, so make sure your tasks are manageable within the number of days you have. A task should be quite specific and measurable. For example, NOT “revise history” but “Make a list of possible history essay questions and answer two of them” or “Finish making notes on XXX topic”. Each task should ideally be finishable within 2-3 hours of good work.
  2. Also make a list of some fun things you’d like to do: shopping, baking, seeing friends, watching a particular film etc.
  3. Make a time-table showing every day until you go back to school. Block off at least FOUR days when you will do NO WORK at all. (I’d rather you had more than four days off…)
  4. On the other days, block off either morning or afternoon for recreation: seeing friends, doing something with your family, going for a walk, playing sport, going to the cinema, just chilling. (Don’t decide now what you’ll do – see how you feel.)
  5. Then add your items from your first list into the half days that are left for work. Allow a bit of flexibility in case you feel ill one day or something crops up.
  6. Take your time-table seriously but don’t let it be your tyrant: you can change it at any point. Some days you won’t feel up to working: treat yourself very kindly on those days. Curl up with a book or DVD, go to a Winter Wonderland, meet some friends for hot chocolate. You can always make the work up later.
  7. Each time you finish one of your tasks, do three things: a) tick it off the list b) very proud and c) do something to reward yourself.

Exams are stressful: they are supposed to be. Some stress is necessary to make your brain super-perform and carry you through even if you’ve slept badly. So don’t be afraid of stress. But do learn to manage it so that the levels of adrenalin and cortisol are appropriate and beneficial, not overwhelming. Exam Attack has the strategies for that, not just for exams but for life. And it’s only £2.91 on Amazon! (NB You don’t need a Kindle: you can download the free Kindle App and read on any computer, tablet, phone etc.)

Your Christmas holidays should be about doing enough but not too much, being kind to yourself, realising that taking a break will make you work better. Relaxation is not a luxury or indulgence – and anyway, it’s a holiday and holidays are supposed to be about a bit of luxury and indulgence!

Happy Christmas holidays, with the emphasis on the holiday!

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