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Student on their laptop in The Nest
December 9, 2020
3 mins read

How to reduce anxiety while waiting for exam results

Occupying the space between finishing your exam and waiting for your grades to get released can feel like you’re reading a suspenseful Gothic novel...

...particularly when you aren’t very sure about how you did. 

You might feel like something uncanny is skulking in the distance, ever so present and closing in. Is this a rendition of Frankenstein, but where Frankenstein’s monster is the grade release? Sadly, you don’t get to glimpse its true form yet (and maybe for a while).

This sensation of suspense can grow like a flower in a baleful nosegay; you aren’t sure if you want to see your grade...or stay in this limbo stage of not knowing.

Here’s how to free yourself from the heavy anxiety coiled about you—and keep your sense of dread at bay as you wait:

1. Recognize that it’s happened and in the untouchable past

Feeling anxious can be a positive sign: You care about your academic achievement. However, unless you've somehow solicited some sort of time travel gadget, you won’t be able to revisit the past to change the answer your brain spawned for that 20-mark question.

So, start by taking a deep breath: It’s behind you.

Yes, your feelings are valid and you’re entitled to having them. Yet worrying about the outcome and mumbling incantations for a good mark can't get you the grade you pray for.

Even if you might not feel it, remember that you did what you could with the resources and time you had. Know that no matter what happens, you have what it takes to get back up.

Whenever we’re facing a problem, we have to consider our ability to change the outcome. If our chance to do so has already expired, brooding—or in this case, calculating how many marks we can afford to lose before we drop by a letter grade—certainly won’t help.

2. Stay mindful

When I start to have overwhelming thoughts, I remind myself that the negative things I think about myself are not true. Recognizing that my thoughts don’t shape who I am—an idea I picked up from Eckhart Tolle’s The Power of Now—has helped me steer clear of overthinking and stay focused on the people and events around me.

Student meditating at home

To stay mindful, try meditating, too! Here are some apps that can help you practice being present.

3. Talk it out to bring it down to size

Talk to someone you trust about how you’re feeling—expressing your emotions and feeling understood can help improve your mood. The person you talk to may have ideas that can help you out as well!

4. Take on activities that foster a sense of control

Channel into action all that nervous energy buildup by preparing yourself for different outcomes. Flesh out your options by developing backup plans.

Maintaining a daily routine is another strategy to help you feel together. Keeping to your daily activities (which you can expect and view with certainty) will be like unlocking the function of the bottom hole in a 3-prong outlet: It can help to ground you—in a good way, of course!

5. Stay occupied with comforting exercises

While waiting, it can feel like a shroud has descended over your life and that every exhale is a sigh.

Here are some ways that can help you get through this time:

Student at the gym
Shawn writing
Decorating cupcakes

Even though it can feel difficult to focus on your life when thoughts about your exam outcome are running wild in your mind, doing activities that help “accelerate” time can ease this waiting period. Maybe that could mean spending more time with loved ones, doodling, or playing with a pet (aww). 

Know that no matter what happens in the end, there's always a way to get back on track. I hope your days ahead get a little brighter—and that you escape from, to quote my hero Poe, the “Plutonian shore” of apprehension—with these tips!

Looking for more tips? Check out these comics from Gemma Correll and Hello Kitty!

Header photo credit: Jamil Rhajiak/ UBC Brand & Marketing