• SPRINT project

Boosting resilience after exam results

Getting your exam results and preparing for the next stage of your life, whether this is going into higher education or employment, can be a challenging time for anyone. But combined with the impact of COVID-19, there are now new uncertainties to manage.


To help you cope with making big life changes during the uncertainty of these times, we’ve developed a collection of easy to use tools and resources to help you feel more positive and in control – two ways you can improve your mental well-being and resilience.


Let’s first take a closer look at the stress you might be experiencing to explain why these tools will help.


Stress

Stress is one of the most common challenges for all of us. We experience stress when the perceived demands of a situation outweigh the resources that are available to meet these demands. For example, stress might arise from uncertainty around admissions to university. Or perhaps you unexpectedly have to wait another year to go on to further study if you didn’t manage to get onto your chosen programme this time around. Another potential cause of stress could be not feeling prepared for going on to university.


Adapting to change

Feeling stressed or anxious before making a big life change is completely normal and understandable. Part of these feelings of stress comes from a perceived lack of control over what is happening around us.


With so much change going on, we can work on being able to adapt. We can do this by developing our ability to be flexible, for example by getting used to learning or working online.



Working from home

With many face-to-face classes and tutorials being moved to online platforms, it’s become increasingly common for us to work from home. This can sometimes mean that it might feel like you have a lack of structure to your day, for example if you don’t have many timetabled lectures to attend. You may also experience challenges in managing your time and setting study-related goals. Working from home can also mean less social interactions as you otherwise would have. This could cause added stress because we know that getting social support from others is an important form of coping.


So what can you do about this? The great news is that there are lots of resources for you to use. At the SPRINT project, we have pulled together a collection of tools to support you. All of our resources are free to download and now also come in the form of interactive tools, such as our goal-setting page.


Interactive pages

If you’ve never tried any of our resources before, a great place to start would be using our brand new interactive tools. These walk you through how to carry out strengths profiling, emotional awareness and goal setting. Don’t worry if you’ve never done anything like this before, as it’s all set up to be user friendly, informative and fun! If you feel that you may need support using these resources, then it’s a good idea to go through them with a friend or family member who you trust.


Another way of coping with increased stress is by using what we call grounding techniques. Let’s take a look at what these are and see an example or two of what they look like.


Grounding techniques

While many mental skills techniques like goal-setting involve active participation, have you ever considered that learning to relax and unwind are mental skills, too? In the fast paced world we live in where things are constantly changing, it’s more important than ever to develop relaxation skills. A great example of how to relax is to become more mindful using what we call grounding techniques.


These are simple exercises to help you to slow down and clear your head. They are really helpful when you are experiencing strong emotions, or if you just need some time out. These can be done anytime and anywhere. Check out this series of infographics offering step-by-step guidance created by Fiona J. Clarke from the SPRINT project on how to ground yourself.


For example, have you ever tried some deep breathing? It is one of the most effective relaxation methods for giving you a sense of calm and managing your stress. If you have trouble falling asleep, focusing on your breathing can help to take your mind off distracting thoughts.


To get started, here are some breathing exercises that you could try out:


Try a few rounds of conscious breathing. To do this, place your hands on your stomach and ribcage to feel the air moving in and out as you inhale and exhale.


Try counting by using square breathing. This is when you breathe in for 4, hold for 4, breathe out for 4 and empty for 4, before starting again.


Another type of counted breathing is through the 4-7-8 technique. To do this, you can breathe in for 4 seconds, hold the breath for 7 seconds and exhale for 8 seconds.


Once you’ve learned to control your breathing in these ways, you can add a motivational or relaxational word/phrase as you breathe out. This can help to centre yourself. You could say ‘calm’ or ‘you’ve got this’, for example.



Stay connected

Staying connected is really important, especially as we get more used to working from home and have less face-to-face social interactions than normal. Try out a few different ways of connecting with others and find out what works best for you. That may be an online video call, chatting on the phone, whatever you feel most comfortable with. By reaching out and staying in touch with those we trust, we can build our resilience. You can explore the importance of identifying your social support network, and learn about ways to expand it, through our Dream Team tool. We also recently published a blog on the topic of social support which offers some top tips for how to stay connected.



Blog

You can now subscribe to our blog using the form at the bottom of the page! Enter your details now to make sure you don’t miss out on future posts with more top tips and tools, such as how to deal with stressful situations and plan effectively. For example, Saul Shrom recently wrote a blog post all around how we regulate our emotions.


Top Tips

We hope you’ve found this blog post helpful and inspiring. Let’s now take a look at some of our TOP TIPS for building your resilience during these times:


  • Download our grounding techniques infographics and keep copies on your phone so that you have them ready to use

  • Practise using our interactive pages to build your resilience in these challenging times

  • Stay connected and check out our Dream Team tool for advice on how to build your social support network

  • Check out our other resources such as the If/Then, Emotional Awareness and Goal Setting tools to help you as you work from home

  • Be kind to yourself – remember that it’s completely normal to feel a bit out of sorts at times like this.




Don't forget to subscribe to our blog using the form below. For more information, you can check out our grounding techniques infographics, download our Mental Skills Training Toolkit trilogy and try out some of our interactive pages.



Which is your favourite grounding technique for helping you to feel calm when you are stressed out? We’d love to hear over on Twitter using #MSTtoolkit #MST4Life



Infographics courtesy of the SPRINT project team.

Photo credit: charlin janene and Nina P on Reshot.

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School of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation Sciences

University of Birmingham

Edgbaston, Birmingham, B15 2TT

UK

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