Be good to yourself

September 2021

Jessica French says all PQs have to make sure they are looking after themselves during the exam season. Here are some of her top tips…

For student accountants, exams and the worry that comes with them seems to roll around every few months. During these periods, you’re likely to feel a huge spike in stress, nerves and anxiety – all of which can easily become overwhelming. Therefore, when revising, it’s crucial that those facing exams are looking after themselves and their wellbeing.

Here are a few of the best ways to manage those emotions, and ensure you’re able to get the most out of your revision time:

Don’t measure yourself against others

It’s so easy to concern yourself with the study timetable of those around you, but their schedule is no reflection on your own. We all have different study patterns and energy levels.
Some of us work better in the morning, others later on in the day – it’s all a case of personal preference. As long as you’re managing to maintain a healthy balance, you’re doing what works for you.

Likewise, if you’re worrying about judgement from your peers as to whether you’re working enough, remember that they probably have the same fears. Therefore, if they say that they’re working all day and all night, they may well be exaggerating.

Keep talking

Revision is often an independent activity, and it can be easy to isolate yourself from the outside world in the run up to your exams. It’s important not to let this happen, and to keep connecting with your friends and family. It’s also worth talking to others who are in the same position as you. You might be able to help and support each other through the exam period.

If you’re struggling to manage your mood or anxiety levels, it’s important that you don’t bottle it up. Utilise those around you. Friends and family can be a great source of support, and there’s no shame in seeking help if it becomes too much.

Have time away from your desk

Breaking up your day will make those intense revision sessions so much more manageable.
Make sure you factor in a lunch break and make the most of that time. Get outside for a walk, pop in your headphones and lose yourself in music or a podcast – rather than continuing to run through whatever you were last focusing on.

When you do take a break, make the most of that time. Even when you’re making yourself a drink or a snack, have it in a different room and use the opportunity to try a short mindfulness exercise. Notice how the mug feels warm in your hands, but cools down gently, and the way the liquid feels when you take a sip. Try to bring your mind back to it if your mind wanders off back into revision-mode before your break is over.

Rest, drink and eat well

We all know the importance of a good night’s sleep, a balanced diet and drinking plenty of water, but it’s easy to let our healthy routines slide when the pressure is on. Trying not to let this happen will work wonders for your concentration and mood. Losing sleep will impact your ability to retain information and focus your attention. You’d be amazed what a good night’s sleep will do, not only for your performance and mental health, but also just your general wellbeing. A balanced diet and plenty of water will ensure you’re functioning as well as possible and that you’re running at maximum efficiency.

Allow yourself to celebrate the victories

It’s so important to take stock and give yourself credit for what you’ve achieved each day.
Exam preparation and revision is hard work so rewarding yourself will help you stay on track with your studies and keep you motivated in those times when it can feel overwhelming.
Reward yourself by taking a coffee break or some time off. Treat yourself to a snack after a particularly hard subject, or even indulge in a few episodes of your favourite show at the end of a productive day.

It’s important to always remember that this exam period will end, and soon you’ll be able to put this experience behind you. Trying to not let your studies overwhelm you will go a long way in keeping you grounded and able to perform at your very best when exam day does roll around.

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• Jessica French, Learning and Development Manager at CABA, the charity supporting the wellbeing of chartered accountants and their families.