Everybody remembers their results day. Whether it is your year 6 SATs, GCSEs, A-Levels or beyond, the anticipation, excitement and nerves stick with you. And it’s no wonder; you spend years working hard, learning everything you can (even if you really don’t want to), towards gaining your qualifications. But how do you manage your emotions in the lead up to, and on results day?
Firstly, everyone will have a different experience of the day. There will be those of you who open your results in the company of your friends, and those of you who take them home or go and sit in the car. There will be joy, overwhelming excitement and shock. Sadly, there will also be confusion and disappointment for some. You may want to celebrate openly with your peers or you may wish for some solitude and time to process your results. Whatever the case may be, it is your journey and that is absolutely fine. Honestly, it is.
It is likely that you will feel stressed in the lead up to and on the day you get your results. Again, that is completely normal and fine. You have been so focussed on this one goal; it is a huge part of your life right now. But we want you to feel empowered in managing that stress. The best way to do this is to understand the stress cycle.
The Stress Cycle
When we are feeling stressed or anxious it can manifest itself in many ways. These can be physical, cognitive or behavioural, and they are all connected to one another. But the good news is you can ease the pressure and manage it well.
There is always a trigger in this case we are talking about exam day
You may then experience what is called Negative Automatic Thoughts. This is when you are thinking things like ‘I am going to fail’ or ‘It will be a bad day’ and you may not necessarily always pick up on these straight away. Those can then lead to feelings of anxiousness and nervousness, perhaps even anger.
What happens next is that our body often responds to the feelings we are having. It finds a physical manifestation to try to warn us of how we are feeling or process what emotions we are experiencing. With stress this can often mean a loss of appetite, shakiness, tension and those butterflies in our tummies. Our behaviour then changes because of this; we may want to hide or avoid what we know we need to face. We may even snap at others or start to cry. This then triggers more of those thoughts and the cycle begins again.
Breaking the vicious cycle
By having good coping mechanisms and strategies in place, we can break that cycle and begin to manage stress and anxiety well. Here is some advice often utilised in therapies to help you become your own agent of change:
- Challenge those thoughts. Often the negative automatic thoughts we have are irrational and unfounded. Try to recognise what you are thinking and challenge the thoughts one by one. For example, ‘It is going to be a bad day’. What solid evidence do you have, that would stand up in a court of law, to prove that it will in fact be a bad day. Do you know for certain? I bet you don’t. in which case that thought is useless to us and untrue, making it easier to dismiss.
- Understand your physical symptoms and respond to them. If you know your heart beat has increased, or your breathing has changed, take a second to stop and slow down. Take three deep breaths in and out. Reset yourself. If your appetite has changed, try to get the nutrients you need in another way. Could you drink a smoothie, could you eat something small or bland? Do you need to sleep? Try to take a nap or get an early night.
- Write down how you are feeling. It may be that you have what feels like a million and one thoughts racing through your mind. Keep a little notepad with you and write them down. That will make it easier to sort out what is important and what is not, and leave you in a better position to challenge them.
- Talk to people. Never underestimate the importance of sharing how you feel with someone else. Chances are they can relate and help you to normalise your feelings. Spending time with others can also be a great distraction from how you are feeling.
When results day comes around, remember this advice and take some time to recognise the achievements you have made throughout your time at school. All those times you thought you couldn’t, but you did. You are on your own journey, and that journey is far from over. Whatever happens, it will be OK. Honestly, it will.