It’s the Easter holidays – hooray! And exams are approaching – nooooooo! This poses a number of problems but I just want to mention one.
Some students will find it hard to switch off and relax. They may have got into a Type A (ambitious, high-achieving, prone to stress and anxiety) way of thinking that goes like this:
- For a long time now I’ve been told that I need to work hard for my exams, how important they are, how they’ll soon be over, how “as long as you do your best and work hard, we’ll be proud of you”
- I really want to do well, for loads of reasons
- I have MASSES of work to do, so many subjects, and I need every possible day
- I know I’m tired but I need to push myself and surely I can push myself for a few more months?
- Relaxation is a luxury and I should only relax once I’ve finished my work and I “deserve” it.
This is a very wrong and very dangerous mindset. It’s the one that made me ill for years in my teens, twenties and thirties.
Repeat after me: relaxation is not a luxury!
You may have come across my Table of Wellbeing. It’s a four-legged table, with the legs being food and water, sleep, exercise and relaxation. I use it in my talks and refer to it a lot in Body Brilliant.
The thing about a four-legged table that if ONE leg collapses, the whole table collapses. And the thing about relaxation is that it’s the leg people typically ignore. Especially when they think they’re too busy.
Ignore it at your peril.
So, yes, work hard this holiday but work to a plan and let that plan include lots of breaks for relaxation. This relaxation can be short, such as stroking a pet, doing some deep breathing, lying in the sunshine for a few minutes; or it can be longer, such as baking a cake, going shopping, meeting a friend, going to the cinema, playing football or going for a long walk.
I was playing around today with a bit of video-making software (actually, it frankly wasn’t very relaxing) and created this for you:
Does it matter what you choose for relaxation activities? Yes, it does! I’ll write about that here very soon.
Meanwhile, make your revision plan for the holiday and make sure there’s plenty of fun built into it, including whole days when you don’t look at your work at all.
Also, chocolate! It’s Easter!
Note: I’ve written lots of other pieces about exam stress in the past. (Put “exams” in the search box above.) I also wrote an ebook called Exam Attack. I have just removed it from sale because I’ve been offered a publishing deal for it so next year there’ll be a much-extended version with lots more information, ideas, and learning brain tips, in beautiful printed form. Hooray!