Exam Stress and IBS – How to Cope During Exam Season

Hey guys,

With exam season coming to a close for many of us, I thought I would share some ways I stay calm during exam season. Exams generally stress everyone out it’s true, but for IBS suffers like me stress can trigger an attack. This can be different for everyone, it could include constipation, diarrhoea, stomach cramps and more.

This year I took my English Literature A-Level exams, which I studied for via correspondence, this meant that I had to travel into London to take my exams as it was my closest center that would take both my coursework and mark my exam papers.

Unbeknownst to me, my tutor had previously said she wouldn’t mark any of my coursework and I would have to pay to have this done at an exam centre, as part of the new regulations for the exam both the coursework and exam paper have to be submitted to the same place. This made it difficult to find anywhere locally to me where I could take my exams because nobody was willing to also mark the coursework. My tutor then turned around and told me (after I had booked my exams in at Hendon) that she would be marking my coursework after all. Great. A tip: when choosing to study via correspondence, e.g. Open Study College, check where your exam centers are and how much the exams cost, otherwise like me, you could be in for a nasty surprise.

  1. Revise – This sounds like a simple one right? Everyone should (hopefully) be doing some sort of revision before their exams anyways to make sure all their knowledge is fresh in their mind for the test. I revised the night/day before my exams using study guides (york notes) or reading over poetry so that all the information was fresh. I find that when I revise I feel more prepared for the exam which helps me relax somewhat. Staying relaxed is key, do whatever you need to to make this as easy a process as possible and avoid causing yourself extra hassle.
  2. Set everything up the night before – If like me you end up having to travel to take your exams, make sure you’ve looked up your train/bus etc. times the night before, bought your tickets in advance so you don’t have to worry about it on the day and work out what time you need to get up. Do things like preparing your bag with any materials you need the night before, grab a bottle of water and cut the label off, make lunch if you feel like you’ll need it before/after the exam.
  3. Meditate – I find that I’m a lot calmer if I do some meditation before I go to sleep. To make this as effective as possible, get ready for bed and aim to be asleep no later than 11:30pm, air your room out for an hour or two before bed so its nice and cool, drink plenty of water and find a meditation tape. I find Paul McKenna’s stress/relaxation tape particularly useful, you can find this on Youtube.
  4. Eat Plain Foods – More often than not, my IBS is triggered by the foods I eat too. Avoid any trigger foods, spicy foods, greasy foods, things high in caffeine and fibre, for example the day and morning/afternoon before the exam. Try and have breakfast before your exam even if you don’t feel like it, you’ll be grateful for it halfway through when you hear someone else’s tummy rumbling. Stick to plain foods for breakfast though, for example have toast if you know that you are okay with it.
  5. Listen to music – Distract yourself the morning or afternoon of the exam by listening to music or watching tv, something that will keep your mind from stressing and worrying.

The key to staving off an attack is to avoid trigger foods the day before and day of the exam (and just generally really), make things as easy for yourself as possible the day of the exam by doing most things the night before and revise so that you feel reassured that you’ve done your best even if you find the exam hard. Of course, if you’re feeling particularly nervous you should always utilise any medication you’ve been prescribed too such as Buscopan, Immodium or anti-anxiety/depressant pills. Whatever makes you feel the most comfortable is key.

How have you found the exam period? Did you find these tips helpful? Let me know in the comments!

Stay chill,



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