Looking after your wellbeing during assessment season

9 March 2022

Looking after your wellbeing is vital to helping you get the best out of your revision. Check out Philosophy student Dylan’s advice for simple ways to reduce stress and stay healthy during assessment season.

sunset at the beach

Assessments are coming up! You know what that means, long days and nights, no sleep and dropping regular eating habits and breaks in exchange for what we take to be productive. But what we can forget is that our wellbeing and our academic success go hand-in-hand. There is no need to sacrifice anything, it’s much better to take care of yourself in the first place.

Procrastination is an old friend around this time of year. It’s wise to prepare adequately. Start off by figuring out your working style to organise yourself and revise effectively. Make the most of the resources available and construct a good study structure that best suits you. Remember, there is no right or wrong way, only what works and doesn’t!

That said, if you neglect your wellbeing, all revision preparations collapse due to lack of energy and motivation. You don’t have to make any monumental commitments to feel on track. I couldn’t just start jogging every day or sleeping 10 hours (who has that luxury?). What worked for me were incremental lifestyle and habit adjustments. Gradually sleeping a little earlier and relaxing before going to bed rather than being stimulated by a screen – the quality of rest is just as important as the number of hours.

We can’t run on caffeine, as much as we’d like to. Something I came to credit for maintaining better energy levels and concentration is what I put into my body. I have a simple system, enjoy eating enough. This isn’t just about quantity and calories, but variety! Getting five-a-day, trying lots of different fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts, and eating the rainbow. You don’t have to be a dietician to eat well. Bonus tip, master spices and seasonings! Healthy food doesn’t have to be boring.

Sitting still in one place to cram in your revision may seem productive, but putting in time to move and stretch every so often gives you energy and focus. Not to forget all important screen breaks too for better sleep and fewer headaches. When I hit a rut, I stand up, look out the window, go for a five-minute walk, take a breather and come back to it.

Motivation can be a major obstacle for both productivity and wellbeing. It’s very easy to blame all the distractions around us. Well, there’s a truth to that - mental discipline plays a role in our ability to focus. Harness your willpower and discipline by setting a small amount of time aside to get the non-university things done regularly, like chores or bits of life admin. It may seem counterintuitive to spend time cleaning and tidying when you have an assessment looming, but maintaining these activities in frequent bursts not only trains the brain, but also creates a clean and calm place to work – such a mood boost! Taking time to tend to my plants, organise my desk and washing the dishes can only be helpful for me and my studies - it can for you too.

Assessments are important, but you’ve got to remember the fun stuff too. Be sure to incentivize and congratulate yourself along the way. Little treats and rewards for making progress or hitting a milestone, such as finishing an exam or submitting an assignment, are perfect. This could be a tasty snack, or carving out an evening to rest, relax, or hang out with friends, whatever makes you feel great.

The most important things in your life may feel out of your control, as the human brain tends to fixate on the negative during times of stress. If taken too far, we end up creating the dire circumstances we were trying so hard to avoid. But, more often than not, finding a new perspective on our situation helps us identify the small changes we can make towards feeling healthier and more content. The path to success may be a grind or a battle, but as the Myth of Sisyphus tells us, we must imagine ourselves happy.

Life will always have its ups and downs, but you can and will overcome its obstacles. Think back to a time when you were struggling and how you managed to cope, what support systems you put in place, and how you took care of yourself. Keep examining your stressors from different angles, you’ll better understand them for what they really are – just thoughts, not your reality. No matter how far off track you may be feeling, or how uncertain things may seem, keep moving forward. As you have done before, you’ll find your way back again. Let your wellbeing help you and be your guide.

Assessments are coming, and that’s okay, you’ll be alright. Remember to take a step back and breathe. In the end, it’s all about being kind, to yourself, and others.

Support available during the assessment period

For more advice on looking after yourself, check out 'Staying healthy during assessment season' from the Assessment Success Guide.

Student Support and Wellbeing have lots of support available, including additional appointments with advisers. Call us on 020 7679 0100 between 9 and 10am to make an appointment for the same day, or submit an enquiry via askUCL and we will contact you to make an appointment, which can be via video call, phone call, or Microsoft Teams chat.

Dylan Ngan, MPhil Philosophy