How to Combat Exam Result Stress

With the UAE's A Level exam results expected this Thursday, we met with Justine Bain co-founder at Sandy Seeds to learn some essential de-stress strategies ahead of the BIG day...
How to Combat Exam Result Stress
By C Hoppe
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With A Level exam results day just around the corner, we met with Sandy Seed's co-founder Justine Bain to discover some great ways to de-stress and prepare for the all important results.

Around the globe, students who sat their A Level examinations in May or June, will soon receive their results. The results directly dictate whether they are accepted into their university of choice.

According to Justine "it is extremely important to remember, you are not alone in dealing with this. It is perfectly normal to feel stress related effects."

It is also important to acknowledge that you cannot change the outcome of your results, so being in a state of stress will not help you at this point in time. Instead, try to focus all your efforts on helping yourself to enter into a more relaxed frame of mind and attempt to regulate your stress response.

When in a heightened state of stress, your body instinctively releases its fight, flight or freeze response and pumps your body full of cortisol and adrenaline.  

This automatic response, is our bodies very primitive reaction to any charged up/heightened states we may find ourselves in, so by the adrenal glands releasing a surge of adrenaline and cortisol into our bodies, we are physically able to move ourselves into action and out of danger, very quickly.

This process can be recognised by physical changes too, for instance, your breathing may get a lot faster, you may start to feel quite hot? Perhaps your muscles will get tighter, or your heart will beat faster.  All of these physical changes are perfectly normal responses, so here are a few tried and tested methods to help encourage a positive state of mind and alleviate such responses.

The night before...

Try to spend time with friends and family to take your mind off obsessing on the projected outcome of your results. Schedule in some fun, laugh and/or exercise if need be!

Remember to be proud of yourself and be confident that you truly did your best!

Aim to fall asleep before 10pm. Sleeping well is really important for the brain in releasing its Melatonin hormone. This hormone is responsible for the management of your body's internal clock.

When disruption occurs to this pattern, its knock on effect is major imbalances in your hormone level productions ability.

Melatonin and Cortisol work in a tag team like style to get you through your 24-hour sleep/wake cycle. One always needs the other, so in order for you to be in your best mental state to receive those long awaited results. Help your body with receiving a good amount of rest. 

If sleep evades you, enjoy a nice warm bath with a few drops of lavender or chamomile oil to really promote relaxation.

Try a late afternoon/early evening yoga class, to try an ease yourself into sleep mode and stretch those tense muscles that are wound up with stress. 

Just remember, relaxation is a skill like any other, so try not to force it to happen and shift your focus on practicing your ability to reach a comfortable state.

Combating Stress On Result Day

On the actual day of the results, try and keep calm and use some self- regulation tools to get you through.

Mindful breathing. This is a great tool and a really effective way to elevate stress. Try the following simple exercise. Bring your attention to your breath, try and find your own natural rhythm of breathing and try not to control or force the breath. Instead, just allow it to ebb and flow as if it were a wave reaching the shore. Try to keep the breath a similar length - so if you are breathing in for the count of 3 or 4, try to breath out for the count 3 or 4. Breathing in such a manner will act as a great distraction and also signal to the brain that there is no real danger here and instead encourage a state of calm.

Why not try an mindful app? This may be one of the handful of times your parents may actually be pleased you are on your device! If you find it difficult to complete the mindful breathing and your mind begins to wander back to negative thought patterns, try downloading the following mindful meditation apps for some guidance and support. They are easy to use and some are free, which is a huge bonus. Here are some great apps to try: Headspace,, Smiling Mind, Stop, Breath and Think.

And if the worst should happen and your discover your results are not what you had hoped...

Try to stay in the present moment and see your situation from a different perspective.

Keep reminding yourself that you truly did the best you could under the circumstances of that day, and with the tools and resources you had at that time.

Keep repeating this when the negative thought patterns creep in.  

Be kind to yourself just as you would to a friend or family member if they were in your position.

A problem shared is a really valuable way to become at peace with your exam results.

Although some may find it extremely difficult to talk to someone about the disappointment, shame or embarrassment they may be feeling, speaking to friends, family or a supportive teacher may help you to truly understand what you are feeling. Writing things down in a journal type format may also help to gain perspective.

Both options will give you the opportunity to accept what you are feeling is ok and that you are able to move on from this in a positive and rational manner, after all, there are always other options you can explore, it’s just a case of finding them. 

Finally, eat some chocolate! Now we are by no means suggesting that you organize yourself a pity party and binge on the entire junk food aisle of the supermarket, BUT dark chocolate has the ability to fight stress by encouraging the release of endorphins, these 'feel good' hormones will be released almost instantly.

You truly will never have a better excuse to reach for the bar of 70% dark chocolate again! 

Sandy Seeds is a Dubai based community initiative which brings wellness to schools around the city. 

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