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Prioritising wellbeing this exam season

A wall of green leaves surrounds a neon pink sign that reads

Hello! I am so pleased to be sharing this article with you, highlighting the importance and benefits of looking after ourselves during a season that is stressful for so many of us. University is hard work, especially combined with all that life throws at us, which is why having strong personal foundations and supporting one another is crucial.

So, why should wellbeing be the priority when deadlines, exams, essays, portfolios, and signoffs are coming at us from every direction? I believe that we, as students, can only meet our full potential when we are both mentally and physically fuelled and nurtured, with the skills, organisation, and confidence to both complete and enjoy each year of university. Sometimes, when our stress levels get too high and the workload too heavy, especially at this time of the year, it is tempting to shut down, procrastinate and lose all motivation.

But this is exactly why wellbeing is so important, because it is what you can learn to fall back on.  In this article, I write about Toxic Productivity and Imposter Syndrome and share my thoughts on the importance of finding a healthy work/life balance to avoid burn out, build self-confidence and keep stress-levels to a minimum during this season. 

A hand holding a pencil fills out a multiple choice exam answer paper

Toxic Productivity

I think that a huge hindrance to wellbeing is this social media-enforced, and very damaging, picture of toxic productivity. There can be an overwhelming message that if you are not constantly working or studying, from the moment you wake up until the moment you sleep, you are not working hard enough.

Do not get me wrong – I also think that social media can be a powerful and positive influence, with students globally encouraging and supporting one another. It’s a movement that even I endeavoured to contribute to in a positive way by starting my own ‘studygram’!

My Instagram account @medi_cate_ is essentially part of a community of students sharing routines, study tips, and techniques for staying organised, motivated and accountable, while also giving those interested insight into our chosen courses. Adding some student-based accounts to your feed can be a great way to feel less alone, and potentially more inspired, during exam season.

A modern office space with a large monitor displaying the supposedly aspirational phrase

However, it is so important, for the sake of wellbeing, to realise that we as students are unique, with unique learning styles and personal circumstances, and it’s far more important to work smarter, instead of harder. There are a whole host of ways to do this, many of them wonderfully covered by my peers in their articles Your exam season sur-THRIVE-al guide and Be kind to yourself: Isabel Lynch’s top study tips.

Imposter Syndrome

I also wanted to talk about Imposter Syndrome, something that can severely impact wellbeing, self-confidence and the ability to achieve one’s goals, if allowed to. It is especially something that I continue to personally tackle, being a medical student on a competitive course and sometimes feeling overwhelmed. Self-doubt, even feeling unworthy to be on our chosen courses at points, can lead to feelings of fear, anxiety, and stress.

Studies have even suggested that Imposter Syndrome negatively affects performance and satisfaction, increasing burnout and threatening mental health1. Overcoming these feelings starts with recognising that you have made it this far, taking note of your accomplishments and beginning to take pride in where you are and what you are doing, not getting trapped in the standards of toxic productivity by comparing yourself to others.

A group of Lego minifigures dressed as Stormtroopers. One looks to its left at another minifugure conspicuously dressed as a clown

From my experience, and maybe your own, exam season can start to look like a descent into chaos. This can lead to a vicious cycle of stress, procrastination, burnout, and then getting more stressed and so on. I am a strong believer, however, that this does not need to be the case. Prioritisation of wellbeing, combined with effective organisation, and the confidence to tackle exam season one step at a time, can reduce stress and help us as students to feel more in control.

There are also great resources out there for when you might feel that you are starting to struggle. Reach out to peers, friends and family, and update your personal tutor on how you are getting on. King’s also offers a number of free, confidential mental health support services or, alternatively, you can contact your GP. There is never any shame in asking for help.

Best of luck with your exams and thank you for reading!

Looking for a GP?

The King’s College Health Centre at Bush House is a specialist GP practice for students and staff of the university. Find out more about the services on offer and get registered over at the centre’s website.

1. Bravata D, Watts S, Keefer A, Madhusudhan D, Taylor K, Clark D et al. Prevalence, Predictors, and Treatment of Impostor Syndrome: a Systematic Review. Journal of General Internal Medicine. 2019;35(4):1252-1275.