Waiting for results day: how to manage your mental health
Awaiting exam results can be stressful enough, without throwing lockdown into the mix! For this year’s GCSE and A Level students, coronavirus has brought added uncertainty. Not taking those final exams may have suited students who’d been dreading them, but will have been upsetting for anyone who hoped the exams would pull their grades up.
Students might also be worried about the next step – particularly if their plans depend on getting certain grades. And if they do get the results they need, will sixth form, college, uni or work go ahead as expected? Will it be a different experience to the one they were looking forward to?
It can be tough when it feels like life isn’t going to plan. This is an important junction in life – but it’s just one of many that lie ahead, and sometimes we’re taken down a different path from the one we expected. It’s never the end of the world!
Remember that whatever you’re feeling, it’s natural. You might be stressed, anxious, down or confused while you’re waiting for your results, or even angry about the whole situation. When you get your results you might be relieved, disappointed or excited, or feel that it’s all a bit of an anti-climax. This is all to be expected! Nobody could have predicted this situation even six months ago, and whatever emotions you’re experiencing you won’t be alone.
If you’re particularly anxious, see if there’s a trusted member of staff or an adviser or counsellor at your school who you can talk to. There are also some practical things you can try to manage your symptoms – for instance, breathing exercises.
Do things that make you happy. As lockdown continues to ease, there are more opportunities to socialise and exercise. Make plans to do something every day that you enjoy or which will help you de-stress, whether it’s seeing friends, playing sport or music, or getting absorbed in a project of some kind.
Challenge any negative thoughts. If you don’t get the grades you hope for, or miss out on the course or uni you wanted, you might feel disappointed and down. It’s easy to dwell on this, and to start overthinking. You could be bothered by negative thoughts like ‘I’ve failed’, or ‘My life won’t turn out as good now’, or ‘Things would have been better if only…’ . Thoughts like these are likely to make you feel even more down.
You can break this ‘vicious cycle’ by challenging the thoughts you’re having: what evidence is there that they’re true? Regret isn’t helpful, because none of us can go back in time and change things. Also, there’s no way of knowing that things would be better if you’d done anything differently!
Try thinking back to a time when something you really wanted to do didn’t go to plan, but which you enjoyed or benefited from anyway. Lots of people who don’t get the results they need still end up on their chosen path, or if they had to change their plans, were ultimately happy that their life took a different direction.
Don’t compare and despair! It isn’t helpful to look at how your friends have done, or worry about the expectations friends, family or teachers had of you. Everyone was caught on the hop by coronavirus, and handled it as best they could – and you’ll all be coming out of it differently. Try to keep focused on yourself, what you’ve achieved, and what you want.
Look at all of your options. Whatever your results, you might have decisions to make about your next move. If you didn’t do as well as you hoped, you might need to work out an alternative route to get where you want to be. If you did, you might be wondering whether to change your original plans until things are a bit more settled.
Find out all the different options that are available to you right now – for example, you can apply for a course through Clearing if you didn’t get into the uni of your choice – and then make decisions based on them.
Celebrate whatever happens! You’ve worked hard to get this far, and you’ve had a lot of stress and uncertainty to deal with. You deserve to reward yourself for that!
If you’re feeling especially down about your results or anxious about the future, and this is affecting your day-to-day life, you might find online cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) useful.