keep mental health as a priority during exam time

The lead up to year 12 exams will look very different for many students across Australia this year, with the impacts and uncertainty of COVID-19 contributing to what is often an already stressful time. headspace the National Youth Mental Health Foundation is encouraging young people to take time to look after their mental health, and notice if things are becoming overwhelming.

Young people are feeling the impacts of COVID-19 on their daily lives, future plans and mental health. A recent headspace survey of clients found 77% felt COVID-19 had negatively impacted their work and study. Feeling anxious and stressed during this time is common, but it can be heightened around exam time.

headspace Senior Clinical Advisor, Rupert Saunders said it’s important to know there are things young people can do to help manage their stress.

“Learning relaxation techniques, taking breaks to engage in strategies like breathing exercises, mindfulness activities and even listening to music, can all be effective in helping to reduce anxiety and stress during this time”.

Parents can also be a huge help to young people to recognise the early signs and symptoms of mental health difficulties. If signs are identified early, young people can get support to get through this challenging time and get back on track.

“Recent headspace research found 40% of young people felt that the pandemic had impacted their confidence to achieve future goals. If young people are feeling stressed, anxious or concerned about the future, putting wellbeing strategies in place now to help through this time can be really beneficial.

Rupert does warn there is a point when stress can become difficult to handle and can have a detrimental effect on young people’s ability to study or concentrate.

“Having a lot of trouble concentrating or staying focused, feeling overwhelmed or becoming upset or teary, changes in appetite and sleeping patterns are all signs that a young person might benefit from putting strategies in place to help reduce stress, or seek support from a professional”.

headspace also has a few ways to help young people reduce exam stress and ensure they are as organised as possible during study. These include:

  • Study space: create a clear organised study space limiting distractions like phones, TV or people talking.
  • Plan ahead: develop a study plan with goals for the week and a good balance of social and outdoor activities where possible. This will make the plan more realistic and easier to stick to. You might want to allocate time to do a video call with friends or take the dog for a walk. 
  • Snack right: drink lots of water and have some nutritional healthy snacks on hand.
  • Self-care: find the relaxation techniques that work for you. This might include breathing exercises, mindfulness activities or listening to music.
  • Exercise: set aside some time for regular physical activity. Thirty minutes of exercise is proven to decrease stress and improve overall mood and can help with performance. This might be a yoga class online or a brief walk around your neighbourhood.
  • Sleep: Try to get enough sleep, at least 8 hours for young people.

For young people unsure of what the next work and study step might be, reach out to headspace Work and Study, and we can help. Call one of our specialists on 1800 810 794 or visit for more information.

More information on how to reduce stress and prepare for exams.



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