Exam Results Stress

Feelings of Stress and Anxiety

August brings with it feelings of stress and anxiety for young people who are waiting for their exam results making many feel anxious, stressed or overwhelmed.

Waiting for exam results can trigger feelings of anxiety which may lead to racing thoughts, feelings of fear or panic, sensations of having ‘butterflies in your stomach’ or you may be experiencing excessive over-thinking about the exams themselves or about what comes next.

When we are facing stressful situations, such as waiting for exam results, it can set off our brain’s inner alarm system which tells the body that we are under threat, and that we need to act. This can leave us with these uncomfortable sensations and feelings which can make us feel exhausted and emotional.

If you are a young person and this sounds like you, rest assured that you are not alone. Take a moment to read some of the ideas and thoughts below which might help you during this time:

  • Remember that your results are not the only measure of your ability and they do not define who you are. You will also have many other qualities, for example, you may be a kind, funny or friendly person; you might be a good listener or you may be particularly creative.
  • Remind yourself that there are so many factors that define who we are, not just exam results. Make a list of all your other strengths and qualities, the things people like about you and which you like about yourself. Keep your list handy and go back to it when you feel overwhelmed.
  • Try to avoid the temptation to compare yourself to others, you are unique and have your own strengths.
  • Remind yourself that even if you do not get the results you want, there will be other opportunities. For example, if you don’t get into sixth form, there are other ways to continue your learning, such as doing an apprenticeship. If you are waiting for a university place and don’t get the grades you need, you might find you have to go through the ‘clearing’ system and find another university which may even end up being better than the one you initially applied for. Try to view this as taking a different road to get to where you want to go.
  • Take care of yourself, find time to have fun and think about other things.
  • Speak to a trusted person about how you are feeling, perhaps a family member or a friend. Remember, you don’t have to go through this by yourself.
  • Meet up with some friends and do something you enjoy.
  • Do some exercise.
  • Try some yoga, deep breathing or mindfulness to relax and calm your mind and body. We have some ideas to help with this on our Mindfulness page.
  • Have some fun in nature - this is a great way to help you feel calmer and grounded. For example, you could go for a walk, have a picnic with friends or go for a bike ride.
  • Take some time to look after yourself. This could be to take a nice bubble bath or watch a favourite movie. Remind yourself that you are worth it.
  • Be mindful of what you are saying to yourself. Are the words anxiety provoking? If so, perhaps try to replace them with a more nurturing inner voice, for example “I am only human and I have done the best that I can.”

Help for Parents

Waiting for exam results can be a nerve-wracking time for parents too so perhaps acknowledging this for yourself and taking time to calm and soothe your own nervous system will be useful. This, in turn will also have an effect on your child, as if you are feeling calmer, the more present and reassuring you can be for them. Here are some suggestions of ways to help:

  • Deep breathing
  • Yoga
  • Meditation or mindfulness
  • Walks in nature
  • Exercise.
  • Reminding yourself that ‘what will be, will be.’
  • Remember that even if your child doesn’t get the grades they want, there will be other opportunities and different doors that will open.

Disappointment with exam results

If you did not get the results that you wanted, this can feel very distressing and upsetting - it's hard to see past this but things will settle and with the help of your parents and teachers, you will soon be feeling more positive about your future plans.

Right now, please try to be kind to yourself, give yourself lots of inner nurturing and compassion as you deserve it. Remind yourself that although this is a difficult time, you can - and will - get through it.

Here are some techniques to help you if you are feeling overwhelmed:

  • Take some deep breaths and remind yourself that things will work out - maybe not in the way you had planned, but there will be other options you can explore. Sometimes life lead us down paths we were not expecting, but we may find our lives end up being richer because of it.
  • Find someone to talk to who reassures you and helps you to feel regulated.
  • Take your time, and explore all your alternatives, bearing in mind that you don’t need to make any instant decisions. Perhaps find someone who can help you with this process - a parent, trusted adult or teacher.
  • Remember that we are all on different journeys in life and success comes in different forms. A number or grade does not define who you are.
  • Try not to beat yourself up, and make an effort to talk to yourself in the same way that you would speak to a good friend. Be kind and compassionate to yourself and remind yourself that things will work out.

If you are concerned that your feelings are getting too big for you to deal with on your own, speak to someone you can trust and ask them to help talk through your options.