Exams Stress Support Thesis

Building resilience and coping when your results don’t go to plan

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Some days feel like everything is going to plan.

But on some days they don’t.

You make a mistake, have setback or you simply fail. It’s no fun. But you can’t avoid it either unless you avoid doing anything at all. And when it comes to getting your results back or feedback on your work, the fear of failure can be overwhelming for those who don’t know how to deal with that kind of stress.

No matter how your results turn out, learning how to build up your resilience can help you cope with stress, not only in your academic life but beyond that too.

Essentially, resilience is the ability to face life’s stressors and bounce back after setbacks and failures. Everybody has resilience. It’s just a question of how much and how well you put it to good use in your life. Resilience doesn’t mean the person doesn’t feel the intensity of the problem. Instead, it just means that they’ve found a pretty good way of dealing with it more quickly than others.

Being resilient and seeing setbacks and problems as an opportunity to learn and make positive choices means you can focus your thinking and take control of the situation. Here’s four ways that can help build resilience:

  1. Let it all out

    When something bad happens, we often relive the event over and over in our heads, replaying the pain and frustration. This process is called rumination; it’s like a cognitive spinning of the wheels, and it doesn’t move us forward toward healing and growth.

    A great way of avoiding rumination is to take that narrative and ‘let it out’ – whether that’s writing our experiences in a journal or having a conversation with family or friends. By having a conversation about the situation you can see it from another perspective and through someone else’s eyes. Once it’s all off your chest, you can also begin to look for positives in the situation, figuring out your next move.

  2. Be constructive and learn

    Try to see it more as valuable feedback and something you can use to improve rather than only a big blow and setback. One of the simplest and most helpful way to do that is to ask yourself better questions (instead of the common ones that send you off into a negative spiral).

    ‘Why do you think you got the results you did?’ ‘What’s one thing you can learn from this?’, ‘How can you avoid the same mistake and do better next time?’ The important thing is to start thinking about the situation from this perspective and to be constructive about things instead of getting stuck in denial or negativity.

  3. Make a plan and take action

    Take what you’ve learnt from questions like those above, it’s a good idea to make a small rough plan for how you want to move forward from here, and we’d recommend speaking to your academic advisor, lecturer or supervisor for advice.

    The plan you come up with will just be a start, it’s down to you to follow it through. This can be the hardest part; you may fear failing again or struggle to start moving after this rough and disorienting thing that happened to you. Split your start of a plan up into small steps and then take action on just one of them, building up from there.

  4. Be kind to yourself

    Remember that YOU are not a failure, that everyone have setbacks, and you can’t let your mistakes define you. Treat yourself the way you’d treat a friend coming to you with the same problem, and react to yourself with the same compassion you would for them.

    Only when you’re kind to yourself can your self-esteem will begin to improve and your resilience to failure or bad news build up. Over time, a smaller setback may just bounce off of you and a larger one will not be the same blow as it used to.
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