Being Kind To Yourself During The Exam Season For University Students

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With the exam season coming ever closer, it is always a good idea to go over the basics. Like, the revision timetable, make sure you start revising early and revision techniques. That is all well and good but there is a critical factor that so many students miss out on and it can lead to devastating consequences. That is not relaxing and making time for yourself. So in this blog post, I’ll explain why it’s important, how to do and most importantly, how to find a balance.

Why Is Being Kind To Yourself During Exam Season Important?

For a lot of different people, regardless of how studious you are, this is a very difficult topic because of the whole academic environment. We are consistently told at university that we should be studying constantly with a large emphasis placed on independent learning.

I’m still can’t (or refuse to) remember how many times I got told about the importance of independent learning during my first year. However, the point is during our university life, we are told we are meant to do a lot of studying and revising and preparing for exams. As a result, this leads to us to believe that we cannot afford to take any time off or do anything fun otherwise we risk our chances at a very good grade.

The reality?

To be honest, if you work really hard, at all hours of the day and you never have time for yourself. Then something very simple will happen to you. You burn out, become overwhelmed and you will just not want to study (or you at least won’t retain the information you’re trying to absorb. But that’s a different blog post altogether).

For many, this will mean you will theoretically be doing all the right things by studying hard, but you’ll burn out and you will forget the information you learn. Leading to bad grades.

The solution?

You simply need to be kind to yourself during exam season and make sure you have a balance between studying and having time for yourself.

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How Do You be Kind To Yourself?

In my experience, there are four main ways for you to be kind to yourself for exams.

Firstly; The first is very easy. Don’t push yourself to the extreme. Now everyone has very different levels of comfort when it comes to studying. Some people can revise for half an hour at a time with a ten minute break then go back to it. Other people can revise for hours at a time without a break. Personally and this is sort of degree-informed, I should recommend you do have regular breaks and maybe stick with half an hour to an hour revision sessions. But you need to do what works for you.

Secondly; it’s important to make sure you work hard, but not to the extreme. It’s good for everyone to push themselves slightly but only if that push benefits them. For example, if you believe you can only effectively revise three topics a day. Maybe try to revise a fourth, that way you get to revise more in the long term.

However, if you do that and you realise that fourth topic wasn’t done as effectively as the first three. And it made you feel really tired, then maybe stick to your three topics a day. You just need to experiment and see what works for you.

As a saying goes in clinical psychology: you are the expert in you. So only you know what works for you and your revision, but be willing to try other things.

Revision Comparison:

Thirdly; do not compare yourself to other people. Comparisons of any form in any walk of like are rarely productive. Not only will that lead to a decrease in revision and an increase in burnout over the long term, but it’ll just make you feel miserable. Why put yourself through that?

Therefore, if you feel yourself compare the amount of revision you do to someone else. Just stop. Focus on your own revision, do your best and make time for relaxing and you should be fine.

Actively Plan Your Relaxation Time

Finally (and this is the most important point); you need to actively plan your relaxation time and make sure you actually do things away from your revision area some days. Like, go out with friends and family, go to different places, go to the beach. Just go somewhere where you can unwind, relax and re-energised so you can come back to the textbooks and be ready to absorb more information for your exams.

Personally, during exam season, I make sure I go out with friends and family and I go out before exam season to different places. This allows me to be energised and ready for the exam season. For example, if this was my exam season this year, it would be good that I’m going up to London for a few days for a major international conference. This would allow me to study hard for a few days before I went, relax during the conference and then return re-energised afterwards.

Therefore, I doubt anyone of you go to conferences, but there are other parts of my example that you can take. Like going out with friends and family members.

Also, if you need something relaxing for a few hours, read a book, watch a film or do something else. Just make sure you do relax.

How To Find A Balance During Exam Season?

Bearing all of that in mind, you need to make sure you don’t spend so much time relaxing that you don’t get any studying done. It’s a strange paradox. Leading someone (probably you or me) to ask the question of how do you find a balance?

And if you remember the last exam season post: How Should University Students Prepare for Exam Season, you should factor in relaxation time into your revision schedule. As well as this serves an extremely important for you. It makes sure the revision timetable is something that you stick to because instead of it being a tortuous, boring chore. It will be something you’re more likely to enjoy because you know if you do X amount of studying, you get to do Y as a relaxation reward afterwards.

Overall, just try to strike a balance between studying and being kind to yourself. Maybe go for 50:50, 60:40 (studying: relaxing) or whatever helps you do the best you can possibly do.


We’ve spoken about a lot of things in this blog post, but here are the highlights:

  • Be kind to yourself to avoid burnout
  • Factor in some relaxation time by going out and doing things you enjoy. These activities will help you feel re-energised.
  • Strike a balance between enough study time so you get good grades, with enough relaxation time to avoid burnout.

I hope you learnt something!

Connor Whiteley
Connor Whiteley

Psychology Student, Author, Podcaster