‘You just need to buckle down and concentrate.’
I can't count how many times I’ve been told this over the years. It's always the same speech every year about the importance of passing exams and getting through the next step, whether that's college, an apprenticeship, university or a job. Constantly being reminded of the slowly shrinking number of days left till the final exams and the consequences of ‘failure’ if you don't pass them, year in and year out. But not once has it been mentioned on how to look after yourself in this ‘critical time’ or how important not only your physical health is to you, but your mental health too. There is so much focus for educational institutes on passing and grades that the welfare of its students is deteriorating. Students are forgetting to care for themselves in the rush to achieve great things and avoid the ‘failure’ they’re being told about.
Students are sacrificing their health for a letter on a piece of paper year in and year out, unaware that doing so has detrimental effects on their welfare. Skipping a meal here and there because the thoughts of exams sickens them, the late nights filled with papers and revision followed by a workout because it's nearly summer and the pressure of a ‘summer body’ is on, slowly drifting away from the people closest to you and the obsession with spending as much time as possible on work and nothing else – for what? To end up losing hair because of the stress? For an unhealthy obsession with food? To feel tired all the time for the lack of sleep and energy you have? To get anxious every time someone comes near you just in case they notice the change in you? All that for a certificate? To end up in a hospital because you can't focus on your recovery because you've been told endlessly to put your grades before your health?
This post is a reminder to all students out there that passing or failing exams isn't the end of the world. It's not the most important thing. The most important thing is your health. It's the decision between life and death – passing those exams might help, but what about results day – you being unable to pick them up due to being stuck in a unit, on bed rest because you’re too sick to get up?
Don't let exams be the centre of your world. Focus on yourself. When you're better you can always go and retake them and gain the qualifications you need. Don't risk your health for a few grades on a piece of paper. Take that day off when you need time to yourself to work on self-care. Ignore the comments about just getting on with the work and trying harder. You have to put yourself first in such a stressful time. Recovery is stressful and exams only add to the stress. Remember, recovery results in good exam results. Put your mental health first.