How to beat the January exam and assessment blues as a Liverpool student

Most get slapped in the face by reality on January 2nd but for students who have January deadlines, reality hits just a bit harder

Many people experience low moods in the winter months but January is said to be the height of such feelings and these are often called the “January Blues”. Given the combination of bad weather, dark mornings and early evenings, and the aftermath of the festive season, its understandable that a lot of us feel low at the start of a new year. For this reason, January is also said to be the height of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), which is a type of depression that occurs in seasonal patterns.

So, you may already be feeling low at the start of 2024 but many Liverpool students also face the stresses of January exams and/or deadlines. These exam dates and deadlines may have seemed a fair distance away before Christmas and New Year, but now the celebrations are over and your exams and/or deadlines are on top of you. This can be a little daunting, especially if you haven’t done as much revision or work as you initially planned to do over the holiday period. And if you are feeling low and lacking in motivation, exam and deadline stress can be a lot to deal with. Below are some tips to help Liverpool students, or anyone else reading, who are feeling low and/or dealing with exam stress.

Tip one: Get socialising

If you’re catching up on uni work that you left until after New Year, making time to socialise may be one of the last things on your mind. However, it is widely suggested that socialising is beneficial to our well-being. Spending time with friends or family may help to take your mind off things. More importantly, you should think about opening up about how you’re feeling. After all, you never know – your someone in your life could be feeling the same or say something you need to hear, and keeping your emotions to yourself will likely make you feel worse. In addition, if you’re stressed about deadlines and exams, then talking to someone from your course may prove to be useful as you could study together or just check that you’re on the right track.

Tip two: Get moving

Exercise has been proven to have multiple benefits for our physical and mental well-being. Now, I’m not suggesting that you have to join a gym or get involved in sports (although, if this is your thing then do it). Even just making time for a walk could make a difference to how you’re feeling.  The best thing about this is that you can combine exercising with socialising. It’s also a good idea to get out in daylight – that is, when the weather allows you to do so. Sunlight, and therefore Vitamin D, are hard to come by in the winter, and this has been connected to low moods and even poor sleeping patterns. Therefore, any chance that you get to get out and about should be taken up.

Tip 3: Get Resting

Although it may seem like I’m about to contradict everything I’ve just said about exercise, taking time to relax is as equally important as getting yourself moving. First of all, its important to get sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep may feel impossible if you’re worrying about deadlines or exams but it is vital for your physical and mental wellbeing. It’s generally recommended that we should aim for around six to eight hours of sleep per night, but if you are stressed then it may be better to set yourself your own personal target. To get to sleep it’s important to switch off, which I know is difficult when you’ve got incomplete work weighing on your mind or if you have an exam the following day.

I recommend trying to put any uni work away at least half an hour before you plan to sleep and to do something you know relaxes you. For me personally, my go-to relaxation activity is watching one of my comfort shows or films but do whatever works for you. Secondly, its important to know when to take breaks from uni work. Regular breaks will help you to concentrate and knowing when to walk away from work will help to reduce stress. Now, I can guarantee that writing an essay or revising exam is not most people’s favourite activity. But if you start to feel really stressed to the point when you’re not concentrating or even becoming frustrated with what you’re doing, then this is when you should take a break. Getting in hours of study is great, but if you’re doing too much this can be counterproductive as you don’t want to burn yourself out.

Tip four: Get realistic

Many of us like to make New Year’s Resolutions, and if you’re making the right changes these are great. But its important that you don’t set yourself unrealistic tasks or goals as this can leave you feeling disappointed if you don’t achieve them. The same principle applies to study. If you’re catching up on work you may have left until after the holidays, then set yourself realistic targets as its important to not overwhelm yourself. You can do this by prioritising what needs to be done based on deadlines or exam dates, or by making sure your revision covers either the topics you feel you will be best at answering exam questions on or the topics you feel you need to go over. The whole point I am making here is that you can be productive whilst being kind to yourself and knowing what you’re capable of.

Tip five: Get help

If low moods and/or uni work-related stress is beginning to disrupt your life, then this is a sign that you should seek help. The NHS website is a good starting point as this provides information and advice relating to SAD and other mental health conditions.  Getting a doctor’s appointment isn’t easy so if you need help fast then NHS 111 online or calling 111 is an option. Other options are seeking in person or online counselling , and/or contacting a mental health helpline. Calling 116 123 will put you in touch with the Samaritans or if you prefer to not talk over the phone then texting SHOUT to 85258 will put you in touch with Shout, which is a confidential texting service offering support 24/7 if you need immediate help. If there is someone in your life that you trust and you feel you can open up to about the way you’re feeling, then you should do so. If its uni work in particular that is getting you down, then you should get in touch with services that are available at your university, and if you’re not sure about these, then ask someone for help or about what options are available if you’re struggling.

Finally: An important thing to remember

If you’re feeling low or dealing with exam stress, then it’s important to remember that these feelings are normal. Experiencing low moods in the winter months, particularly January, is a common and medically recognised occurrence. This is why its so important to talk about the way you’re feeling as someone in your life could be going through something similar. Exam and deadline stress is also normal. Stress about uni work shows that you care and can therefore serve as a good motivator, as long as it is managed well.

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