Post Exam Stress Trauma

Laura Dowse discusses the after-effects of the exam period.

Congratulations! You made it. You survived. You can finally say that exams are over. Depending on your personal revision style, the months, weeks or days of revising have come to an end. But what happens now?

It is likely that you could experience some form of ‘Post Exam Stress Trauma’, and I’d like to offer some support during this potentially confusing time in your life. You’re about to go through many changes, and I don’t want you to be scared. Whilst I am not a doctor or medical professional, I want to use my personal experience to help you through this. Exams may be over, but your journey is not.

During the first stage of the disorder, you are likely to experience emotions that can only be described as joy, ecstasy and pure relief. Regardless of your future grades, the soul-destroying and demoralising task of revising has ended. Stop to smell some flowers, catch up with Game of Thrones without feeling guilty, reacquaint yourself with the SU; whatever floats your boat. I urge you to enjoy this time before you enter phase 2 of your recovery.

Reality hits, and it hits hard. It could be the sudden awareness that you have to leave what I refer to as the ‘university bubble’, and re-enter society. For many, this means the realisation that everything is a lot more expensive (nights out in particular). Others may be faced with the dreaded question; what shall I do with the rest of my life?! Whatever your situation, you should know that these feelings of panic and fear are completely normal.

Focus on the positive, also known as the silver lining or the bright side. Make the most of the opportunity to relax. Want to stay in bed all day? Do it. Want to trawl through social media without feeling bad? Do it. Want to challenge yourself to sit through the longest movie marathon possible? Do it. Whatever you have been longing to do during this term; take the chance to experience it.

Don’t be scared; you will recover from your zombie-like exam state, and return to normality. I am sure you don’t need my encouragement, but enjoy your summer. September will roll around again before we know it, and we will be forced to return to our studies or find some sort of grown-up job.

Just remember to stay calm. You survived exams, you’ll enjoy summer, and you’ll be fine no matter what happens in September. You’ve made it through the year, so be proud of yourself and enjoy whatever you do next.

I hope that I have gone some way to comfort you during your post-exam recovery. If this is the case, then I am glad that I could offer some reassurance. If you completely disagree with everything that I have described, that is absolutely fine as well. Exam reactions are a personal experience, and everyone will come to terms with this trauma in their own way. Just know that you are not alone, and that we are all united in our relief that 2013-2014 exams are over.