Coping with Exam Stress when a Loved One Has a Serious Illness 


Coping with Exam Stress when a Loved One Has a Serious Illness 

Dealing with exam stress is challenging enough on its own, but when a loved one has a serious illness, the pressure can sometimes feel overwhelming. In this blog post, we will explore strategies to manage exam stress while supporting your loved one.  

Acknowledge your feelings 

It’s okay to feel stressed, anxious, sad or even guilty about focusing on your exams while someone you love and care about is unwell. Acknowledge your emotions and understand that however you feel is valid. Giving yourself permission to feel your feelings can help you better manage your stress levels. It’s also okay to talk to your loved about your exams and how you’re feeling. They may offer you words of encouragement or understanding, which can provide much-needed support during this time. 

Set realistic goals 

Take time to understand that you may not be able to perform at your best academically when you have a loved one with a serious illness. You are going through a tough time already, so set yourself realistic goals and focus on doing the best you can under the circumstances. Try not to compare yourself to others. You might feel like other people are smashing their revision, or that they feel calmer about the upcoming exams than you. However everyone is different and that’s okay. Give yourself credit for your efforts, regardless of the outcome and remember that your worth is not determined solely by your exam grades. You are doing the best you can in a challenging situation and that is more than enough! 

Create a flexible revision plan 

It’s also important to develop a revision plan that allows for flexibility. When you have a loved one with a serious illness, things don’t always go according to plan. Therefore, having a schedule that be adjusted as and when needed can be really helpful. This will allow you to adapt to changing circumstances, prioritise tasks effectively and accommodate unexpected events. In addition to this, remember it’s ok to incorporate variety when revising. You can alternate between reading, writing, watching educational videos, doing past papers and teaching the concepts to someone else. This can help you sustain interest and keep your brain engaged, which is good when you may have a million and one other things racing around your mind. Another top tip which would be to use the Pomodoro technique. This is where you divide study sessions into shorter, more manageable chunks. Aim to revise for 25 minutes, have a 5 minute break and then repeat! 

Relieve your stress  

Try and incorporate different stress-relief techniques into your weekly routine. This might be meditation, exercise, yoga or mindfulness exercises. Making these practices regular can help calm your mind, reduce worry and allow you to approach your exams with a clear focus. The Headspace YouTube channel has lots of fab videos to guide you through these practices. I’ve popped some links below to a few of my favourites! 

Breathing Through Exams: A Breathing Practice to Focus and Calm Stress ( 

Free 2-Minute Quick Focus Reset Meditation: Regain Focus to Work, Study, or Get Tasks Done ( 

Feeling Overwhelmed? Try This Quick Meditation. ( 

You may want to integrate some of these techniques into your revision plan, such as between studying or when you notice you may need to centre your mind back to what you are doing. 

Managing exam stress whilst having a loved one with a serious illness is undoubtedly difficult. However by acknowledging your feelings, setting realistic goals, creating a flexible revision plan and relieving your stress, you can navigate this time with resilience. Remember to be kind to yourself and to celebrate your accomplishments to stay motivated and focused. You’ve got this! 

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