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Prioritising my mental health during exam season

Prioritising my mental health during exam season

The Abled Lawyer


I have Ehlers-Danlos syndrome – the hypermobile type that is a connective tissue disorder with many and varying symptoms.

Know your triggers

Predominantly for me, widespread joint pain and subluxations. Since my diagnosis, throughout my undergraduate studies and during my first roles after university, I have been learning how to live with this condition and spend time finding the ‘triggers’ that exacerbate my symptoms.

Now, I understand that stress is one of the main triggers that significantly increases my pain if it is not managed properly. Stress can cause a flare-up that can take weeks if not months to recover from. Before starting my Legal Practice Course (LPC) and master’s earlier this year, I was anxious about exam season and what effect that would have on my health. I’m sure we can all agree that stress is ever prevalent during exam season.

Establishing the connection between my mental health having an actual impact on my physical health spurred me to find ways to look after my mental health during exam season. Below I’ve written the steps I took during the lead up to my first LPC exam back in May. My tips may sound basic or widely publicised, however, I too needed to remind myself of the basics as I often get caught in the whirlwind of revision.

Here’s what helped me.

Drink water

It has been shown that mild dehydration may impact memory and mood. This may seem an incredibly basic tip, however, when caught in a deep revision session it is easy to forget. To help combat this, I use a big litre size bottle and place the bottle in my eye line on my desk.

Pre-revision meditation

Starting my revision sessions with a focus meditation helped me to relax and start the session with a clear mind. It enabled me to develop a breathing technique that I used when I started to feel tight chested, anxious or overwhelmed. The breathing technique also helped during my exam when I started to feel panicked about a question.

Focus music

Some people can listen to upbeat music while studying, unfortunately, that’s not for me. The funky beats and hearty lyrics are a distraction. However, listening to a meditation playlist at a low volume helps me to focus on the task at hand. Playlists can easily be found with a quick internet search.

Take regular rests

During my revision, I came across the Pomodoro Technique which is essentially a time management technique to break down complex tasks. Setting a timer, you break down your task or revision into 25-minute sprints. Once the timer rings, you then have a five-minute break. After four 25-minute bursts, you can then take a longer 15 to 30-minute break. This technique was incredibly beneficial for me as it’s important to move regularly for my joints to not stiffen.

Get fresh air

Make a conscious effort to get some fresh air each day and get a change of environment. This was difficult to implement at first as I always found myself ‘too busy’ to step away from the desk. But stepping away from my laptop and getting fresh air felt invigorating.

Finishing by 9:30pm

I noticed that on the evenings I worked later than 9:30pm, I struggled to sleep or my quality of sleep was impacted. Going from revision straight to sleep didn’t give my brain enough downtime and I usually found myself waking up at night dreaming of unregistered land!

It took me a while to implement an earlier finish time; I had to be strict with myself to finish revision earlier than 9:30pm. Eventually I got the hang of it!

One important point to make when discussing mental health and revision is that  revision should not be treated as a 24-hour job. This is something I have to keep reminding myself throughout my studies. Don’t force yourself into presenteeism at the beginning of your career – the longer you work does not mean you are better. For instance, don’t feel bad if you are taking some time away from revision, enjoy the moment, enjoy the rest and reassure yourself that when you are revising you are working hard to retain as much information as possible.

This was the most relaxed I have ever been during an exam.

There are two positives to this blog post:

  • First, because I actively looked after myself during the lead up to my exam, there was no flare-up of my condition after the exam.
  • Second, I achieved a distinction.

So, I will continue to use these techniques and will discover more over time which I will be happy to share in my future blogs.