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Top tips to manage your mental health during exam time


Feeling stressed as exam time approaches? You are definitely not alone! Research has estimated that around 15% of students experience high levels of stress and anxiety while preparing for and taking academic exams.[i] Other sources suggest that as many as 82% of students believe these tests have a notable impact on their mental health.[ii] It is essential to recognise the signs of stress and manage the symptoms wherever possible in order to look after your wellbeing and give yourself the best chance of success.


The challenge


Stress itself can increase the risk of various physical and mental health concerns. These include memory impairment and problems with the immune, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and endocrine systems.[iii] With regards to mental wellbeing, prolonged stress can also increase the risk of anxiety and depression.[iv] There is also evidence to associate elevated stress with poorer sleep quality,[v] which can exacerbate mental health issues and create a dangerous cycle for affected individuals.


Unfortunately, higher levels of stress and anxiety are also linked with poorer performance in exams.[vi] This is likely due to a reduced ability to concentrate and impaired alertness, which have both been linked to chronic stress.[vii]


All of this means it is essential that students manage their emotions as effectively as possible.


Stress management techniques


It’s always easier said than done, but there are things you can do to reduce stress while revising for or taking exams. Here are some of the most important:


  • Take short breaks when studying to stretch and move around – even taking 2 minutes to do breathing exercises can help to relax the body and lower blood pressure.
  • Optimise your time management to make sure you are using your hours wisely. Break your available time into blocks, allocating slots to specific subjects, and include periodic breaks. It can also help to schedule in some downtime like meeting friends for a coffee, so you have something to look forward to, and minimise distractions by placing your phone out of sight, for example.
  • Get enough sleep to improve your cognitive function and ability to concentrate – aim for 8 hours a night.
  • Exercise in some way, especially outdoors. Regular physical activity can reduce stress and increase emotional resilience,[viii] both of which are crucial during exam season! Even just going for a walk outside will be beneficial as exposure to nature have been linked with enhanced cognitive function, blood pressure, and mental and physical health.[ix]
  • Fuel your body in the right way. It will be tempting to grab a takeaway or snack on crisps at your desk, but consuming healthy nutrients will support brain function[x] and help you study for exams more effectively. Think fish, flax seeds, walnuts, citrus fruits, dairy products and vegetables!
  • Use your support network by talking to friends who are going through the same thing as you or who can help you revise. Consider joining or starting study clubs for students in your area and field – this social support is integral for your physical and psychological wellbeing![xi]


Light at the end of the tunnel


The good news is that getting yourself safely through exam season will help you develop excellent stress management skills that will be useful throughout your career. Being able to stay calm in the face of time and workload pressures will be crucial for a long and prosperous career in dentistry. From everyone at the Association of Dental Implantology (ADI), we wish you the very best of luck for exam season!


[ii] Education executive. NEU survey reveals the impact of school pressur4es on student mental health. April 2018. [Accessed march 2024]

[iii] Yaribeygi H, Panahi Y, Sahraei H, Johnston TP, Sahebkar A. The impact of stress on body function: A review. EXCLI J. 2017 Jul 21;16:1057-1072. doi: 10.17179/excli2017-480. PMID: 28900385; PMCID: PMC5579396.

[v] Alotaibi AD, Alosaimi FM, Alajlan AA, Bin Abdulrahman KA. The relationship between sleep quality, stress, and academic performance among medical students. J Family Community Med. 2020 Jan-Apr;27(1):23-28. doi: 10.4103/jfcm.JFCM_132_19. Epub 2020 Jan 13. PMID: 32030075; PMCID: PMC6984036.

[vi] Theobald, M., Breitwieser, J., & Brod, G. (2022). Test Anxiety Does Not Predict Exam Performance When Knowledge Is Controlled For: Strong Evidence Against the Interference Hypothesis of Test Anxiety. Psychological Science33(12), 2073-2083.

[vii] Liu Q, Liu Y, Leng X, Han J, Xia F, Chen H. Impact of Chronic Stress on Attention Control: Evidence from Behavioral and Event-Related Potential Analyses. Neurosci Bull. 2020 Nov;36(11):1395-1410. doi: 10.1007/s12264-020-00549-9. Epub 2020 Sep 15. PMID: 32929635; PMCID: PMC7674527.

[viii] Childs E, de Wit H. Regular exercise is associated with emotional resilience to acute stress in healthy adults. Front Physiol. 2014 May 1;5:161. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2014.00161. PMID: 24822048; PMCID: PMC4013452.

[ix] Jimenez MP, DeVille NV, Elliott EG, Schiff JE, Wilt GE, Hart JE, James P. Associations between Nature Exposure and Health: A Review of the Evidence. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021 Apr 30;18(9):4790. doi: 10.3390/ijerph18094790. PMID: 33946197; PMCID: PMC8125471.

[x] Gómez-Pinilla F. Brain foods: the effects of nutrients on brain function. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2008 Jul;9(7):568-78. doi: 10.1038/nrn2421. PMID: 18568016; PMCID: PMC2805706.

[xi] Ozbay F, Johnson DC, Dimoulas E, Morgan CA, Charney D, Southwick S. Social support and resilience to stress: from neurobiology to clinical practice. Psychiatry (Edgmont). 2007 May;4(5):35-40. PMID: 20806028; PMCID: PMC2921311.

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