Simple self-care for exam season

5 May 2021

Exam season can be a stressful time, but it’s as important to take time to look after yourself as it is to schedule in revision time. It’s valid to feel overwhelmed, so the UCL Student Support and Wellbeing team have brought together their tips for self-care.

Book, coffee and glasses on a bed

Get lost in a book

If you’re doing an essay-focused course, then you might find it hard to concentrate and read a book. Try dipping into some fiction for an escape, and to give your eyes a break from a day of screens (between scrolling, revising and Netflix-ing, it really adds up). Try something removed from your everyday life so you can escape into a different world for a few chapters, and really switch off from exam thoughts.

Get those 7-9 hours a night

While it might be tempting to overhaul your whole routine to make those 5am starts, the best thing you can do is work within your body’s natural rhythm, whether you’re an earlybird or a night owl. It might work well for you to get up early and crack on with the day as the sun comes up, and it might help you get ahead – but be careful not to force yourself to do this, as it may just make you more tired. Most importantly, schedule in some uninterrupted sleep for 7-9 hours each night, to allow your brain and body to recharge and recover after each day.

Eat nourishing food – and drink less caffeine

Beige food sometimes does give us the comfort we crave, but it’s best to keep it to a minimum, since nourishing your body with lots of vitamins and minerals, especially from fruit and vegetables, will help you to have more energy and less lethargy. If you enjoy cooking, this can be a great activity to make something and get (almost) instant gratification from eating it. If you don’t love cooking for one, offer to cook for your housemates, or pop on an interesting podcast or album to keep you company – and save those leftovers for an easy lunch the next day.

It’s also important to be mindful of your caffeine intake. Yes, it can help you focus and stay alert – but too much can send you over the edge. Caffeine anxiety is a real thing, and drinking too late in the day can upset your sleep, since caffeine stays in the system for a good few hours.

Leave the house

Staying in the house to revise or write essays all day might feel productive, but it’s really important to get out and about, see some friends and take some time away from your desk.

Long walks around different parts of London are a firm favourite amongst the Student Support and Wellbeing team, whether they’re with friends or for some alone time. Engaging with nature is beneficial for mental health, and just spending time outdoors, perhaps noticing the natural world around you, can help you improve your mood, and decrease anxiety and stress.

Engage your inner child

In the first lockdown in London, it felt like everyone had picked up some sort of craft project or way to pass the time using their hands. Whether it was some colouring, learning to knit, sew or crochet, or play a game whether online or on a board, we all had to find some new ways to entertain ourselves. Engaging our inner child with some activities that invoke play, such as crafts, can be a great way to use our brains differently and pour ourselves into something.

Move your body

The Project Active classes run by Students’ Union UCL are a great way to let off some steam! Project Active has a great variety of classes, and are to support students and staff at all fitness levels and interests! Busting out some dance moves in a Zumba class or moving into downward dog will help you to release tension, take your mind off things, and help you get your body moving in a way that works for you.

If you like to get out and about and have access to a bike (yes, even a Santander cycle!), plan out an interesting route to explore some new places. If you’re like some of the Student Support and Wellbeing team, you’ll plan your route based on places to get great food and drink along the way, but you could also stop by some of London’s sights, museums (after 17 May) or just get lost!

Schedule in some you time

When you hear self-care, you might think immediately that this is just having bubble baths and watching a guilty pleasure on Netflix. Well, by now you might have realised it’s a lot more than that – but that’s valid too! For some people, spending time alone to recharge looks like having a bath with a few too many bubbles, watching that terrible TV show that you just can’t seem to stop watching, and for others it’s putting your headphones on, shutting out the world around you and going to get the nicest coffee you can find.

Whatever way you choose to look after yourself, make sure you’re making time for your self-care, so you can recharge your batteries and fill your cup up for your week of studying and acing those exams.