Are the changes to your school routine and exams making you feel stressed, anxious or even angry?

Last reviewed on 26 February 2021

Online lessons. Cancelled exams. New assessment processes. It has been a challenging year, especially when it comes to your education. If you’re finding things difficult, you’re not alone. In a recent study by The Prince’s Trust, half of 16 to 25-year-olds said their mental health has worsened since the start of the pandemic.

There has been lots of discussion about disruption to education by members of The Student Room over the last 12 months. In early 2021, there was a steady rise in posts about anxiety and stress across The Student Room community and the main concerns for students were exam results, mental health, online learning, university applications and job opportunities. When it was announced that schools will reopen on the 8th of March, more than two thirds (67%) of respondents to a poll by The Student Room said they don't feel comfortable about going back. Comments in The Student Room forums include:

“It's honestly ridiculous how we are being left in the lurch like this, surely they should have had a plan [for assessments] in advance for this scenario which was always going to be inevitable?”

“I’m not sure if it’s because I’m in lockdown or what but I just feel so unmotivated and tired... which upsets me so much because I love the course I’m doing.”

“...I wouldn't want to go [to university] if it's going to be a repeat of the current first years' experience, but I doubt that could happen again. I'll say that it very likely won't affect my decision as I just want to get on with life ASAP.”

“If you don't currently have a job, you're going to struggle even more now with fewer available and even more out of work.”

Based on The Student Room’s recent snapshot, our own 2020 survey with Partnership for Young London and TikTok and our regular conversations with young people, the Good Thinking team has put together these tips to help you cope with any worries about school, exams and the future.

You’re facing a lot of challenges and pressures at the moment, from understanding how your grades will be calculated to switching back to classroom learning. Stress is a perfectly normal reaction to threat (it prepares you for ‘fight or flight’) but if your worries are completely filling your mind, there are some things you can do to help keep them under control.

Read our advice about stress and use our stress self-assessment tool. Staying in touch with friends (even if it’s remotely for now), exercising regularly and taking a moment to pause can all help to lower stress. Check out our articles about connecting with nature and developing a healthy habit, listen to our mindfulness podcast and download the Be Mindful app. If you’re feeling stressed because the days seem to be blurring, our advice about dealing with Groundhog Day be helpful.

Everyone gets anxious now and then but, with so much change over the last year and not knowing what the future holds, this might be a particularly worrying time right now. Perhaps your thoughts about your exams and grades are racing or you’re worried about going to college, uni or getting a job? Maybe you can’t sleep or you’ve lost your appetite?

One of the reasons you might feel anxious is because of the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic and not being able to do what you enjoy doing – you’ll find lots of useful advice in our articles about five ways to good mental wellbeing, facing uncertain times, managing boredom and focusing on rewarding activities. If you’ve got a few minutes to spare, use our anxiety self-assessment tool to get recommendations for NHS-approved wellbeing apps, such as MyCognition PRO and tomo. If you’re worried that your safety behaviours might be getting out of control, listen to our podcast with an OCD expert.

Many people are experiencing sleep problems due to COVID-19. Whether you’re struggling to get to sleep or waking up in middle of the night, it’s really important that you try to get on top of this so you can face the school day refreshed. Fortunately, there are lots of techniques you can use to get better sleep.

In our sleep article, we provide three useful tips. If you’d like to dig a bit deeper, check out our podcast with an NHS sleep consultant and this sleep workbook by the Centre for Clinical Interventions. You can also take our sleep self-assessment and check out NHS-approved apps that help you to relax, such as Meditainment. And don’t forget that regular exercise (you’re still allowed to go for a walk, run or bike ride in your local area) can help you to achieve better quality sleep.

You might find that you feel particularly sad, tired or irritable because of the current situation. Perhaps you've really missed going to school or you're worried about the new assessment process. Or you might be upset that this year isn’t turning out to be what you expected.

First of all, is there someone you can talk to about how you feel – a friend, a sibling, a parent or someone else you trust? If your mood has been low for a while and it’s affecting your daily life, it’s important that you get help. Good Thinking has lots of resources to build your resilience and help you to feel more positive, including My Possible Self and other NHS-approved apps. You might also like to use our depression self-assessment tool and the Centre for Clinical Interventions depression workbook.

If you’d like to speak to someone in confidence, text SHOUT to 85258 or call The Mix on 0808 808 4994. You can also call your local NHS 24/7 mental health helpline. If it’s an emergency and you need immediate medical attention, call 999.

As the COVID-19 pandemic goes on, you might feel frustrated that your life is on hold and that your plans for college, university and work might have to change. Feelings of anger and irritation are an instinctive response to threats but you need to know how to manage them – we’ve created some tips to help you do this. You might also find our podcast about coping with loss of work interesting.

Good Thinking provides advice for young people on a range of mental wellbeing topics, including bullying and eating disorders, as well as a series of blogs and podcasts. If you need urgent mental health support, details of NHS 24/7 helplines and other support organisations are provided in this article.