Taking care of your mental health during exam season


As university students, we are constantly stressed throughout the semester, but we can all agree it gets worse during exam season. During these times, it is important to know how to take care of your mental health and learn what works best for you. It’s never going to be easy but we can definitely help ourselves make it easier. 

Marjory Phillips, director of the Centre for Mental Health Research and Treatment (CMHRT), said that burnout is very common among university students during exam time. “It is important to take scheduled breaks such as having a meal or talking to a friend,” she said. She mentioned that using the pomodoro technique when studying has proven to be effective for students, as it has built-in break times. The pomodoro technique has users work in 25-minute increments, with 5-minute breaks in between.

Phillips also stressed the importance of recognizing when your stress takes over your thinking. “Be aware of your thoughts, especially if you’re constantly telling yourself you’re going to fail a test — it could just be your stress talking.” 

She also listed some of the symptoms of burnout to watch out for: “being tired and exhausted all the time, not eating enough, or eating too much can all be symptoms of burnout.” These are vital to notice early on so there is a chance for prevention. According to Phillips, burnout can also manifest as an unproductive cycle of not feeling well. 

Mark Ferro, a professor at the school of public health sciences, elaborated further and stated that “high levels of stress and a loss of interest in other activities” are indicative of burnout. He also mentioned how an individual’s personality could change – for example, someone facing burnout might become more agitated. 

Exam season may be stressful, but there are ways to manage this stress. Ferro said, “It is important for students to set boundaries through time management; it can be the most helpful skill when preparing for exams.” He suggested that students should avoid distractions as much as they can to improve productivity when studying. 

The CMHRT provides anyone with therapy sessions if needed. It is located on the first floor of the Psychology, Anthropology, and Sociology building on campus.