Exams getting a bit much? 5 mental health check-ins you can do right now

From keeping on top of revision to what to do when revision gets on top of you


With exams approaching, it seems all too easy to label struggles with mental health as an inevitable symptom of achievement in a highly competitive environment. But it is important to remember that such sacrifices should not have to be made in the name of success. And in a world where unhealthy work habits and mental health difficulties are looked upon as part and parcel of daily life, it can feel nigh on impossible to accept that you’re struggling or even realise that you need help. So, here are five small things you can do right now to check in:

1. Be honest with yourself

In the busyness of Cambridge life, many of us constantly put ourselves at the bottom of the list. Between the essay due tomorrow, that lecture you’ve been putting off watching and that one friend you really should catch up with, time just seems to disappear. We are too busy doing to check how we’re doing.

This, I think, is the first step. Sitting down with yourself and taking the time to reflect on how you are feeling about the way things are going – from exams to relationships to what makes you happy – particularly if you feel that something isn’t quite right, is a uniquely restorative act. Not sure where to start? Check this out:

10 Minutes, 10 Questions – can be used for yourself and with others

Image Credit: Screenshot via Instagram @idontmind

2. Start prepared

While I don’t want to turn this into a year 7 style exam workshop (you know the ones – with the overly peppy speaker treating revision as some kind of extreme sport!) it’s important to emphasise the value of preparation. Taking the time to get your head round what you need to know, how to do it, and when you’re actually going to fit it all in, can help give you the confidence to know that you’re going to make it – if you just stick to the plan. As much as I hate to say it, you can’t go wrong with a good old spreadsheet.

It’s also worth taking time to understand the work habits which make things easiest and most enjoyable for you. Here’s a fun place to start:

Quiz: What Type of Learner are You?

3. Find a balance

While balancing your time is definitely a lot easier said than done, it’s really useful to carve out specific time in the day for being ‘on’ and ‘off’ – believe me, as much as it pains me to say it, Netflix and work do not complement each other well – it’s Netflix and chill not Netflix and study for a reason! By sticking to set ‘work’ hours, you’ll be forced to be more conscious of how you use your time, and what you can reasonably get done in specific periods. You’ll also be able to be fully present when you’re doing the things you enjoy. Reflect on the times of the day which you work best, and schedule ‘on’ time accordingly – don’t forget – it’s what works for you – 3am essay writers unite!

Ah, the good ol’ days of free-period napping… Image credit: Izzy Grout

Not sure whether you’re an early bird or a night owl? Try this quiz:

Quiz: What’s your circadian rhythm type?

4. Keep talking

Particularly when things start to get difficult, it’s easy to shut yourself from those around you. From being too busy, too tired, not wanting to be a burden, or just feeling like no one will understand, there are all sorts of reasons why this can feel like the easier option. And while making the decision to reach out and be vulnerable can be hard – it is important to know that to ask for help is indicative of strength, not of weakness.

Image Credit: Screenshot via Instagram @studentmindsorg

Start by reaching out to friends or loved ones, but also remember that trained professionals are available in college. For more details:

Student Wellbeing Services

University Counselling Services

5. Recognise when it’s time to get help

There comes a point where all of us must accept that we may be dealing with a storm we cannot weather alone. Often reaching this point of acceptance and recognition can be the hardest part. The next issue however is turning this recognition into a reality. Getting help for mental health issues can be a daunting and frustrating experience, particularly if you are already struggling, but practical solutions such as exam warnings, medications or therapy and counselling really can make such a meaningful difference. Useful starting points include emailing a trusted adult in college as a way to start the conversation, booking an appointment with the GP (make sure you’re registered!), or contacting external services such as student space.

Further links to external support can be found below:

Student Minds Support Links

Mind Student Mental Health Page

The Samaritans

Feature Image Credit: Izzy Grout

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