Managing stress when waiting for results

Waiting for and receiving results can be stressful. It’s important to recognise the signs and take proactive steps to maintain good mental health.

Each of us responds differently to important life events, like waiting for and receiving results. At some times we may feel relaxed and calm, whilst at others we may feel stress.

Whether you're currently feeling relaxed or stressed, it’s good to be aware of the signs of stress. Learn what you can do to manage stress in the lead up to results day, and on the day itself.

Why waiting for results can be stressful

Results days are important to us because they can influence future education and employment. This can cause stress.

Also, we often feel stressed when we don’t know what to expect, or when we can’t take any action to change matters. Both of these at the same time can be particularly difficult. For example, after completing an exam, we can’t tell how well we’ve done, and we can’t go back and change answers we think are wrong. This may also leave us feeling extra stressed.

Noticing signs of stress

It’s completely normal to experience stress in the time between exams and results day, especially as results day draws closer. Some signs of stress may be:

  • feeling less connected to other people, alongside changes in your general behaviour and how competent you feel
  • poor sleep and having bad dreams
  • worrying and continuously thinking about your expected results
  • ups and downs in how optimistic you feel
  • feeling less motivated to look after your health
  • how you respond to weather – eg very hot weather may make you more irritable and stressed.

Observing and acknowledging these reactions is an important step towards improving and managing your mental health.

We each respond differently

Each of us responds differently when waiting for important news. Some find it easier than others. There are some traits in people that might make it more difficult to stay calm and relaxed, such as:

  • people with existing mental health conditions like anxiety and depression may find the waiting period especially difficult
  • those who don’t like uncertainty may find it more stressful
  • optimists are likely to cope better than pessimists
  • those who focus on the present moment in a mindful way may be more optimistic
  • people who experience awe – perhaps from religious practice, art, or nature – may find it easier to cope
  • gender may affect how you cope because of societal expectations to show or hide emotion.

What you can do to reduce stress

There are many simple and free ways you can reduce stress, such as:

  • look after your physical health – do moderate exercise and sleep well
  • be social – make plans to see friends and family, either physically or virtually
  • check in with yourself about how you’re feeling, eg through mindfulness meditation
  • write a list of things you are grateful for
  • do something that helps you feel connected to others, eg volunteer work or getting shopping for a housebound neighbour
  • find an enjoyable activity that you can be completely absorbed in, like playing a video game or drawing
  • work on goals that you can chart your progress on like the NHS Couch to 5k running plan.

Keep in mind that each of us have different needs, and will respond differently. What may work well for you may not work for others. Find what’s right for you, try new things, and support others like you taking positive steps towards good mental health.

Support each other safely

Coronavirus, being in lockdown and maintaining social distancing causes stress for many. It may cause more stress when waiting for your results.

Being with and talking to friends and family is how many manage stress. It’s important that when we’re together, we’re safe.

Learn more about staying alert and maintaining social distancing.

Further information and support

If you're anxious or concerned about your own mental health, you can access a lot of free information and support services, including: