It’s exam period for most of the university students here in the Netherlands – some are already finished and others just have that last push to go. The best of luck to you all!
Whether it was five years ago or twenty, many of us still remember the feeling of exam stress. I’ve had people that haven’t had exams in years, with busy jobs, kids, mortgages etc. tell me that sometimes they still have nightmares of missing an exam because they overslept.
It is no wonder it takes such a toll on us, the elevated effects of cortisol (aka the fight/flight hormone or stress hormone) are useful for the exams, since it helps the body produce adrenaline to make sure we are in an alert state for better performance. Sounds good right? However, when we are in this state for a prolonged period of time it can start to have some less desirable effects: headaches, brain fog, extreme fatigue, weak muscles and mood changes to name a few.
Many of us drop the self-care during exam period, which is understandable when you have a million other things to do, but that does not do much in the way of helping our bodies de-stress and take our foot off the cortisol pedal.
So we have some aftercare suggestions, to help regain some balance in your life after you are done with exams and the exhaustion sets in…
Whether you have been up late at night cramming notes, or those nightmares of missing the exam means you really haven’t slept well in weeks, chances are that you are in a sleep-deficit. Set aside some time to catch up on some Zzz’s.
2. Don’t over-analyse
It is tempting to go over the exam questions over and over again and again in our heads to work out a better answer or how we would respond this time, but at some point it does more harm than good. Accepting how the exam went as best as it could under the circumstances is easier said than done but being hung up on something we can’t change is a waste of our already depleted precious energy stores. You did your best, you deserve a break!
3. Tidy your room
Albert Einstein once said something like “order is for idiots, genius can handle chaos” and whilst mess might not have hindered Einstein with his theories, the same may not be true for the rest of us… A messy room might actually just reflect a messy mind. Tidy away those notes, throw away those late pizza boxes and if you have the energy, you probably need to deep clean that room too. We swear it will make you feel better!
4. Make fun plans for after
How often have you finally finished your final exam and then all you’re left with is a hole, a void: nothing to do. You have been spending weeks, maybe months with the same goal in mind “X weeks until I’m free” and now that you’re here, it all feels a bit anticlimactic. If you know this might happen to you, make sure to make some plans that you can look forward to, to commemorate all your hard work and blow off some steam.
Exercise, healthy eating, meditation, journaling, socialising – all things that have probably been at the bottom of the priority list for a while now but are all of the things that help us maintain our mental health! As much as possible, try and get back into your usual self-care routines, their compounding effect will make you feel more like yourself again.
Which one of these you will be prioritising? Let us know and remember to take care of yourselves!