Tips for beating Exam Stress


Can I avoid getting stressed before an exam?

Taking exams is stressful because of what's at stake.

You may be feeling a weight of expectation from your family, school or university to succeed . You may be afraid you're not good enough, or haven't worked hard enough. You may be scared of letting yourself down, or that you'll miss out on a university place.

Your pre-exam nerves may seem much worse if you are doing exams for the first time or after a long gap, or if you have particular learning difficulties. Nor do exams exist in isolation; there may well be other events going on in your life that are putting you under pressure (see below).

If your stress levels rise too high for too long, it can be harmful both to you and to your chances. Everybody's stress 'threshold' is different. A situation that is too much for one person to tolerate may be stimulating to another. Controlled at the right level, however, stress can work to your advantage, because it can help you to produce your peak performance.

How do I minimise exam stress?

Exams bring out the best in some people, and the worst in others. Whatever the case, you may be in a situation where you have to do them. Remind yourself that you can only do your best - and your best is all that you can do.

Get Organised.

If you find out exactly what you're facing, you can work out a plan for dealing with it, and this will go a long way towards putting your mind at ease. Get hold of the right information from the start. Make sure you know how you will be examined, and what you'll be examined on. If you can, get a copy of the syllabus. Catch up with anything you've missed, so that you've got all your notes up to date.

Find out about the resources available to help you. School and university teachers are an expert resource, although they may not have a lot of time to give you. There are also many good revision guides, TV revision programmes and a wide range of internet sites to use.

Create a timetable

Try to start your revision in plenty of time. Take time to plan a revision timetable that's realistic and still flexible, and linked to your exam timetable, so you revise subjects in the right order. In planning it, give yourself clear priorities and try to balance your revision with other demands on your time - meals, sleep, chores or other commitments, as well as time for relaxing. Identify your best time of day for studying.

If you are on study leave, one way to structure your work might be to divide each day into three units (morning, afternoon and evening), giving you a total of 21 units per week. Then make a list of all the topics you need to cover. Estimate how long you think it will take you to revise each one, allowing more time for things you find most difficult. Then add on plenty of extra. Finally, divide the topics up between the units.

Everyone needs time off, and it's a bad idea to abandon your social life and sporting activities, but for a period near the examinations, you may need to cut down. This may involve making hard choices. Always leave yourself a minimum of six units of free time per week.

What's the best way to revise?

It's not always possible to find peace and quiet, and a comfortable place to revise. Try to arrange with those at home a set time and space where you can work without being disturbed. Failing that, think about whether you could use other facilities at school, college, or your local library. If you study in a room where you also eat or sleep, try to keep the work area separate, so it's not always confronting you when you're not studying.

There’s no ‘right’ way to revise, it’s largely a matter of what suits you best and the particular exam you’re taking (multiple choice answers, calculations, short-answer questions, or essays). Methods might include making notes from text books, writing quick summaries of topics (in the form of mind maps or spidergrams perhaps), reciting facts out loud, learning dates, formulae or vocabulary by heart, and reading revision books or watching revision programmes. Switching between methods
helps you hold your interest and absorb information better. Mix dull subjects with more interesting ones, for the same reason. If it’s hard to get started, begin with something easy.

Actively think about, sift and question what you’re writing and reading, and test yourself afterwards. Writing endless notes is probably a waste of time. If you come to something you don’t understand, try reading about it somewhere else. If that doesn’t work, then ask someone who knows the subject well.

If you have a problem with concentration, you can improve it by starting with short bursts of study, then adding an extra few minutes to each session. Don’t try to study for longer than 45 to 60 minutes at a stretch.

It may be less stressful to do the work than it is to worry about it. If you find it hard getting motivated, set yourself measurable goals for each revision session, and tick them off when you’ve achieved them. After each session, acknowledge the achievement, and reward yourself with something. Have a break between sessions, or if you find things getting on top of you. Get a soft drink, read a magazine or take some exercise.  Bear in mind that drinks containing caffeine, such as cola, tea and coffee, are stimulants, and may make you feel more agitated.

It's worth practising timed exam questions and papers. This can give you some idea of what the real exam will be like, and of how to divide your time between questions. Although exam papers are never the same, they're similar enough to be useful. There's a good quote that goes, "the more I practised, the luckier I got".

How can I de-stress?

Learning how to relax is crucial. Straightforward, effective, self-help techniques are going to be very helpful in the run-up to the exams, and even when you’re sitting in the exam room.

Breathing techniques
Stress can make you start breathing with quick, shallow breaths and make your heart beat faster than usual. If this happens, sit down somewhere comfortable, if possible. Place one hand on your stomach and check how quickly you are breathing. If it’s one breath every couple of seconds, take a deep breath and start counting steadily. Breathe out slowly and try to get the last of the breath out on about five seconds. Carry on doing this until you are doing it naturally.

Relaxation routine

  • Close your eyes and breathe slowly and deeply

  • Locate any areas of tension and try to relax those muscles; imagine the tension disappearing

  • Relax each part of the body, from your feet to the top of your head

  • As you focus on each part of your body, think of warmth, heaviness and relaxation

  • After 20 minutes, take some deep breaths and stretch


Physical activity

Regular exercise is an excellent way of coping with stress. As little as 10 or 20 minutes a day spent walking, cycling, or at the gym can make a big difference.

Complementary therapies

Yoga, meditation and massage all have proven benefits in reducing stress and promoting relaxation. Ask at college about what's available or find out about local classes from your library.


If you're tired, worries can get blown out of proportion. If you've been finding it difficult to get to sleep, try cutting down on stimulants (tea, coffee and alcohol, for instance) and make sure you have time to unwind before bed.  The B Vitamins help to reduce stress and Magnesium taken 20 minutes before bedtime help you to sleep.  A warm bath, with perhaps some added aromatherapy oils, can help. Some people feel very stressed about not getting enough sleep. It's worth remembering that people can still function very well without any sleep for short periods of time.

Support groups

Think about getting together in a study group with fellow students. It can help with revision and give you an opportunity for talking to each other about what is worrying you, letting off steam and reducing tension. Sometimes, people are reluctant to open up for fear of what others might think of them, but everybody is in the same situation.

What's the best approach to the actual exams?

Be sure you're clear about what exam is coming up when, so that you don't prepare for the wrong one. Working through the night before an exam may save you on the day, but it's not a good strategy to rely on. It's possible to work effectively without having had enough sleep, occasionally, but getting a good night's sleep is arguably a better option. If you usually take the last-minute approach, it may be worth reflecting on why it's necessary for you to tackle exams this way.

To reduce the scope for anxiety, have everything you need ready in advance, with any spares. Do have something to eat before the exam, however queasy you are feeling. It doesn't need to be a huge amount, but you will function better with fuel inside. Set off in good time!

Once in the exam, if you feel panic rising and your mind going blank, take a minute to do a breathing routine (see above) and give yourself time to calm down. The biggest mistake people make in exams is not to read each question carefully; so they don’t answer it in full. (The second biggest is making sweeping statements without backing them up with evidence.)

After the exam is over, it's tempting to think about all the answers you gave and if they were good enough. This will only stress you further. Try to forget about the last exam, and focus on the next one, instead.

Keep things in perspective. Be realistic about what can be achieved. We are all different, achieve at different levels, and have different qualities and skills. Exam success isn't a valuation of you as a whole person. Be positive about what makes you the individual you are. If you do end up doing badly, it won't be the end of the world. Facing up to the worst will enable you to look at how you might cope and what you could do next. There may well be another chance to take the exam, or an altogether different path may open up.

What are the signs of too much stress?

Feeling stressed is a natural response to such pressure. We all respond to pressure as if it were a physical threat. The body releases chemicals into the bloodstream that make you feel nervous and edgy. Muscles tense, ready for action and the heart beats faster to carry blood to the muscles and the brain. You breathe faster, sweat more and your mouth becomes dry. Hormones, such as adrenalin, cause these physical reactions. This automatic response is known as the 'flight or fight' reflex.

These are some of the early signs that you might be under too much stress:

  • headaches

  • sleeping badly

  • loss of appetite

  • being unusually bad tempered

  • feeling tired all the time

  • feeling sick.

You may also be feeling restless, finding it difficult either to relax or to concentrate. You may be drinking or smoking too much. Or you may be being very disorganised, with a sense that you and your life are in danger of getting out of control.

Panic can sometimes produce physical sensations, such as chest pains, muscle cramps, pins and needles, dizziness or fainting and stomach problems, which may worry and alarm you.

Sometimes, too much stress can be a trigger or fuel for other problems, including panic attacks, depression, drug abuse, eating distress or self-harming behaviour. It's important to talk to someone about these, and to get appropriate help, if necessary.

What should I do if things are getting on top of me?

Try to get an accurate picture of your situation. Ask someone who knows your work, and the standards required, for their opinion. You may be worrying unnecessarily and setting yourself much too high a standard.

Sort out your priorities

If you think there's too much work, and not enough time left to do it, write down everything you need to do, and sort it into order of priority. You can then work out what action you need to take for each task, and work your way through your list. You need to take into account which topics are the most important or compulsory, which you already know best, and which you have enough information on. If you have a tutor or mentor, he or she can advise you and help you organise your work realistically.

Non-academic problems

Often, exams aren't the only stressful event going on in people's lives. You may have ongoing personal or emotional problems (including lack of confidence) that are hampering you. Research reveals that up to a third of students have serious, non-academic problems. These include serious illness, bereavement, caring for another member of the family, or other social problems, such as discrimination or housing problems.

Coping with such problems can require practical help, support and advice. It may be important to tell the educational institution the pressure you're under, so that this can be into account, if necessary. They can then help and advise you.

Talking treatments

Discussing your problems can be a great relief and can often throw up solutions you wouldn't come up with on your own. Bottling up your feelings may make them worse. If it's difficult to talk to friends, family or staff, a more structured form of talking may be the answer.

Sometimes, people under stress don't want to talk about their problems because they are afraid of being overwhelmed or losing control of their emotions. But talking to a counsellor or therapist, in confidence, can help you to contain those feelings. It can lead you to understand why you feel as you do, and find the means to do something about it. Some schools and colleges have their own counselling services (via the college welfare officer, for instance).

You could also talk directly to your GP. Many surgeries now offer counselling on the premises. There are also other professional organisations that may be able to offer information, advice and low-cost schemes.


Occasionally, a GP may prescribe antidepressants or minor tranquillisers as well as, or instead of, talking treatments. Both these types of drugs can have side effects and may cause withdrawal problems. They should only be prescribed, when absolutely necessary, to provide relief for a limited period.

What can family and friends do to help?

A student who is under stress needs to know that they have the support of family and friends. It's important that others should be sensitive to the extra strain they may be under, and allow them the space and time to study. Regular meals, appropriate opportunities for relaxation, and emotional support are all going to help. So is offering plenty of positive feedback, which can demonstrate your confidence in their abilities.

Friends and family should keep distractions to a minimum and do as much as possible to ease any additional pressures. They may find it difficult not to let their own frustrations and anxieties about the outcome influence their responses, especially if it's meant putting limits on their own activities. It isn't for long.

If it does look as if the stress is getting too much for the person taking the exams, encouraging them to seek appropriate help could be vital. It's important to reassure them that this is a sign of strength, not weakness.

Beyond your treatment

Massage treatments are effective in relieving pain, and providing comfort at the time, however it is important to consider the advice offered to you by your therapist to ensure long term relief and improvement.
Educating our clients on ways to reduce the instance of pain or injury is very important to us, so we have decided to offer up for dowload a series of informational articles covering the most common complaints we hear at the clinic.

To review our list of documents and download your own copy please visit our Self Help page.

If you have any ailments you would like to see an article on, please let us know and we'll write one up for you.

Recovery and long term relief is our goal, and we want to do what we can to help you reach that goal.

How often?

I am sometimes asked by new clients, how often should they schedule for another massage.
As a therapist, this is a really tough question to answer, however I will share my views on the subject, and allow you to decide for yourself.

In an ideal world, one I certainly wish I could afford to live in, we would all get massages about once a week.
What a great way to reduce stress and help maintain good health, and physical fitness.
Sadly this is seldom possible for most people, so my thought is this:
Come as often as your wallet and your schedule will permit!

This may be once every two weeks, once a month, once every two months, the goal is to make you feel good, and to make Massage a regular part of your healthcare routine.
If you are suffering from an Injury that is being treated, the first few weeks of treatment are most important, so 1-2 sessions a week for the first week or two of treatment is ideal, but again, its not always possible or financially viable for people to do this, so as long as you take care of yourself between sessions and follow any recommendations for aftercare, you should still do well in your recovery.

Ask me about ways to treat yourself at home, or for suggestions on stretching after your workout routine. I love sharing this type of information with people.

Affordability is the biggest concern, especially when things in the economy are as tough as they are right now. Massage is viewed as a luxury, and one of the first things to go when people start living on budgets. However when you consider how much longevity you can receive in your health from regular massage, it may pay to keep up those appointments. Research has shown that people who receive regular massage often take less "sick leave" from work, and are generally happier employees. Your Immune system benefits, so you become less reliant on medicines to treat things like viruses and infections.

I have tried to ensure that I have priced my massage at a point where it doesnt break the bank.
Think of all the ways you could save that £35 a month to put towards your massage*?

Remember your body is the only you'll ever have, treat it with love, care and attention and it will take care of you and carry you for a long, long time.

*60 minute massage

Service Industry Discount Day!

Having worked in the Service Industry myself for many years, I know how much of a stressfull and thankless job it can be. So to honor those who deal with this type of work day in and day out, I am introducing "Service Industry Discount Day".
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Special Offer: Limited Time Only

For a limited time only, receive a Hot Stone Therapy massage for the same price of your regular massage.

A hot stone therapy can:
    * boost your circulation
    * release stored tension
    * recharge your energy levels
    * relax you.

Hot stone therapy can offer health benefits for people with:
    * muscular pain
    * poor circulation
    * rheumatic and arthritic conditions
    * fibromyalgia
    * multiple sclerosis (MS)
    * back pain
    * stress
    * insomnia
    * depression.

As with all massage therapies, you should never underestimate the feel-good factor. Hot stone massage will make you feel nurtured, pampered and special.

Hot & Cold Stone Therapy now Available

Over the last few months many clients have asked about the availability of Hot Stone Massage.

I am pleased to announce that we now offer Hot and Cold Stone therapy treatments eithehr as a stand alone  service, or in conjunction with our regular massage.

There are several different methods of using stones in a Massage treatment.

Placement: Placement involves positioning the stones on certain areas of the body, and resting them there to allow the heat to penetrate the muscle tissue and assist in relaxing the muscles to allow deeper penetration when massaging those areas.

Gliding and massage: Effective hot stone massage  uses tthe stones as tools to deliver effective tissue and muscle masage at a pressure level that the client is cmofortable with.

The heat from the stones relaxes muscles andincreases blood flow to the  area beeing worked, assisting in the acceleration of the healing process.

Call now to book your next massage session, and why not ask for Hot Stones to be incorporated into your session.

As a warm up for winter, why not have a relaxing hot stone massage to help fight off those winter chills and the stressors of the holiday season.

Caught in the rain?

Now that rainy season is here, the chances of you getting caught in the rain while out running errands in Bathgate is pretty high. Why not pop into the clinic on North Bridge Street, warm up, dry off and enjoy a relaxing 10 minute chair massage for just £5??
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West Lothian Business Directory Savings Card

This is an amazing deal, that won't ever be offered again, or with any other savings card scheme or promotion. The West Lothian Business Directory has just been published, and there is an amazing offer from Wee Sally Therapeutic Massage on page 12.
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Police Federation Discount Scheme

Wee Sally's Therapeutic Massage clinic is a proud member of the new Police Federation Savings card scheme.
We are offering a £5 discount on massages of 60 mins or more each time you show your Discount Card.

We look forward to your business, and help in finding you relief from pain and injury.

10 minutes is all it takes

According to a recent study by The Touch Institute, a 10 minute massage can boost alertness.
The study showed that brain wave activity is stimulated and linked to improved attention span.

At Wee Sallys clinic in Bathgate we offer 10 minute chair massage sessions on a walk-in basis for only £5.

What better way to clear out the afternoon cobwebs, and refresh yourself ready to take on the rest of the day, than stopping by for 10 minutes of relaxation?

Stop by the clinic at 48H North Bridge Street, Bathgate and find out why we are one of the best massage clinics in West Lothian.

Discounts and new features!

I was grateful to receive my copies of Issue 1 of Whitburn and Armadales "Up the Street" brochure today. This will be distributed over he next week to all homes in the Whitburn and Armadale areas, so keep your eye our for our Ad to receive £10.00 off a 90 Min massage, which is regularly priced at £45.00.
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Back to School at last!

The summer holidays can be one of the most stressful times of the years for parents.
Between having to keep the kids entertained for 7 weeks, planning a summer getaway and juggling your job on top of all that.
Now the sweet little cherubs are back at school again, and finally you can let out a sigh of relief.

The following article from Massage 101 describes how Stress can affect your life, and the positive benefits of receiving a massage to help handle stress in your life:
Prolonged periods of stress can negatively affect many systems of the body.

Stress has been shown to aggravate, or even cause, such problems as heart disease, gastrointestinal disorders, memory loss and decreased immune function. But it doesn’t just contribute to physical ailments. Stress can sap joy from your life, cause seemingly inexplicable fatigue, and leave you less able to enjoy your relationships and leisure activities.

Loved ones can become unfortunate victims of stress in your life. You will find yourself less patient and less able to mentally engage with the people you care about.

Massage therapy is one of the best antidotes for stress. We know this is true on an intuitive level. If even the untrained hands of a friend or partner can soothe aches and pains, and diminish anxiety, then imagine the effect of a therapeutic massage by a trained practitioner. Even the rituals of massage come as a welcome break from our hurried lives: dimmed lights, soothing music, the pleasant fragrance of a mild oil or candle - even without massage, these might help you relax. But coupled with the right massage techniques,  you’ll actually feel the stress leaving.

Massage boosts the body’s immune system, which can become compromised from extended periods of stress. Tension can build up in the muscles, causing a decrease in circulation and nutrient delivery to tissues.

Manipulation of the soft tissue decreases muscular tension, increases removal of metabolic waste and promotes nutrient delivery to healing tissue. Knots in your muscles can inhibit your ability to perform regular, daily tasks. As other parts of your body try to compensate for the ache of a tight muscle, they also start to become tight and uncomfortable. Before long, an injury that began in your neck can trace to your shoulder, down your arm and into your wrist. The reaction chain can take innumerable forms, but none of them are pleasant.

In short, with a therapeutic massage stress can be significantly reduced. This, in turn, will increase energy, improve your outlook on life, and in the process boost your immune system function. Coupled with modest changes in nutrition and activity levels, massage can be the start of a profound change for the better in your health and well-being.

So why not book yourself in with me and treat yourself to a massage to unwind from the stressful holiday season?