Coping with the exam season as a member of staff

Author: The Mental Health Foundation’s Peer Education Project Team
Published: 21/03/2022

Set your boundaries

‘Don’t feel like you have to do it all.’ OPEN Network Respondent

Setting and maintaining boundaries with what you can offer at work will help you to protect yourself from being overworked and experiencing burnout. Read this article from Education Support on recognising the signs of burnout and protecting yourself.

This isn’t always easy, especially when you want to be able to support each of your students to do their best and get through exam season.  

It is important to keep in mind what is in your best interests, and sometimes that may mean saying no to requests on your time. This can be difficult to do. This article from Education Support offers advice on how to say no.

A part of setting boundaries is holding time to do something you enjoy and stepping back from the stress that surrounds exam season. This may be chatting with a colleague over a coffee on your lunch break, listening to a podcast on your way home from work, or prioritising time to do your favourite hobby in the evening. It is important to ‘find yourself something that works for you and prioritise it’ (OPEN Network Respondent). Look at these 5 strategies to help you to reclaim your time.

Pause and reflect

‘Allow yourself time out to relax.’ OPEN Network Respondent

Often, it can feel like there is not enough time in the day to complete the mounting tasks ahead of you, usually with something or someone requiring our attention and time. Yet it is important to create opportunities to pause and reflect, not only for your physical health but your mental health and wellbeing too. Read the Mental Health Foundation’s Rethinking Rest Guide, to rethink what rest means to you and build pockets of time into your day for you.

Mindfulness can be a useful activity to bring your attention back to the present moment. It can be practised in those small moments of time travelling to or from work or in between classes. The Mental Health Foundation’s mindfulness guide is a good introduction to see how mindfulness can work for you. You could also listen to the Foundation’s guided meditation podcast and 3-minutes mindfulness breathing space as a starting point to incorporating mindfulness into your day.

Know that you’re not alone

‘Support and encourage your colleagues to not hide away and keep talking.’ OPEN Network Respondent

More likely than not, your colleagues will be experiencing similar feelings of stress during exam season. Reaching out and having open conversations about your mental health and wellbeing can help you feel supported. Sometimes it may feel difficult to start a conversation about how you are feeling. Education Support provides tips on talking to colleagues about your mental health and wellbeing.

If you are feeling overwhelmed by the exam season, it is important to reach out for support. As well as your colleagues and line manager, there are support helplines who can give you advice. You could contact:

  • Education Support’s free helpline on 08000 562 561, which is staffed by a qualified counsellor.
  • Samaritans’ free helpline on 116 123 (UK), offering 24/7 support.

As exam season approaches, remind yourself how much hard work, time and effort you have put in throughout the academic year to give your students the best knowledge, skills, and tools to succeed. Believe in yourself. Believe that your students will do the best they can in their exams, and that you’ve done the best you can to support them.

Useful resources

Mental Health Foundation

GCSE exam stress infographic


We have collated our top five tips for coping in exam season into a handy eBook for you to download and go - with links to useful resources and mental health support.

The Mental Health Foundation’s Peer Education Project Team

The Mental Health Foundation is a charity that aims to help people understand, protect and sustain their mental health.