We all have disaster stories of horrible exams and the treacherous days that follow. When a test leaves you feeling like you studied for Chemistry but took an English exam, it’s completely normal to feel at a loss for what to do afterward. Hibernating in your room may be your first idea but there are many better ways to take care of yourself after failing an exam. A failed exam does not close the many doors of opportunity that awaits. Actively working through the exam and self-care afterward will leave you with your head held high rather than ashamed of the experience.
Here are 10 tips for caring for yourself after you fail a test.
Before going straight to closing the blinds and crawling into bed, consider working out. Exercise can immediately relieve tension left behind from an exam. “Distraction always makes me feel better because it gets me moving, and we all know endorphins are key in that. So yeah, it’s just important to be able to feel good after you learn about your grade, and then still be able to set new goals rather than being hard on yourself and getting burnt out,” said Wayne State University senior Olivia Young. As most of us know, being active comes with a lot of benefits; stress relief and anxiety-soothing, working out can help you forget about a test that won’t leave your mind.
2. Avoid the Junk Food
After a terrible exam, fighting the urge to eat pizza, chips, and ice cream become a tough battle, but is it really the best choice? Junk food can lead to increased anxiety, mood swings and aggression. A salad may not be on the top of your list of cravings after a terrible day. Indulge in nutrient-rich foods that taste great and improve your state of mind. You can even make an event out of it. On a bad day, invite friends over to explore new healthy recipes in the kitchen. Blasting 90’s hits and preparing a delicious meal brings friends together and will help get your mind off the exam. Feeling productive in taking care of your health and discovering new ways to cook encourages healing when you feel like you’ve been thrown a curve ball.
3. Pamper Yourself
Taking the time to pamper yourself after a rough day relieves some of the tension left from looking at grades. Play some relaxing music, put on some comfy clothes and take a long soak in the tub or a hot shower with your favorite scents (lavender and jasmine are the best for relaxation). Light some of your favorite candles and fill your room with scents that remind you of home or a memory that brings you comfort. This can help to relax your mind and acknowledge that the day has come to an end. A face mask and meditation also help create a time for reflection post exam. As you breathe in and out, picture grades and the stress of college leave your mind. A mantra acknowledging that there’s nothing to do at this moment but breathe can be helpful when you feel like your academic career has tumbled down the drain.
Yoga is great form of exercise that encourages the mind to take a rest from thinking how many times you picked A over B in the multiple choice section and focus on your breathing. Being alone during a stressful time can be really difficult. Signing up for a yoga class can encourage you to get out of the house and be in a social setting that emphasizes self-reflection. Yoga in the park also brings you closer to nature, creating a nice break from technology, grades and stress.
5. Seek a Mentor
Seeking a mentor for support turns failure into an opportunity to learn. Professors truly mean it when they tell you to visit them during office hours for help. It’s important to learn from failed exams and speaking with a mentor clarifies a lot of questions left behind. Mentors are there to help, listen and provide knowledgeable advice on the matter. They can provide advice on how to better prepare for the next exam, and go over the previous one to resolve any confusion (especially when it’s a failed test that you finished feeling like you aced it). “To recover from what I thought then to be my worse nightmare, I sought advice from my mentors and friends to help me get through it. I then retook the class the following semester, visited my professor’s office hours more often and ended up getting a 97% in the class, which in the end was extremely rewarding,” said Loyola Marymount University junior Victoria Arevalo. Being honest with your mentor about failed moments only strengthens your relationship, so don’t be embarrassed to admit you need help.
6. Talk to a Friend
Call a friend or family member that you know always supports you at a time when you aren’t feeling your best. Take a break from exams and the stress of school through chatting with friends about their lives. Listening to what’s going on in their lives helps you gain a new perspective. Unexpected laughs and memories to share with friends can really help during a stressful time. Talking with other students in the class may also help. It’s a reminder that you truly aren’t alone and more often then not, you are not the only one who struggled in the class.
7. Do Something You Love
Enjoying something that you love can help get your mind off of tests and grades. After a rough exam watching more than a couple of episodes of Supernatural and Arrested Development on Netflix is a necessity. “Last semester I had one of the worst tests of my life, cs 177. I thought I failed. So right away I went to the grocery store. I love finding new food and trying out new recipes. It took my mind right off of it,” said Purdue University senior Elizabeth Cauffiel. It’s simple acts that can ground you and be a reminder that this one exam does not define your future.
8. Music and a Mini Dance Party
Put on your best tunes and let loose your stress from the exam. “I usually listen to music when I can’t get an exam out of my mind. Songs that have a positive memory to them always help me feel better,” said University of Iowa senior Bailie Uppena. Picture Meredith Grey and Cristina Yang dancing their stress away between shifts at the hospital. Blasting your favorite tunes while singing along can feel like unscrewing stress from the body.
9. Read a Book or Magazine
Reading a book, similar to listening to music, can shift your mind to another world. Pick up your favorite novel or continue something you’ve been reading and allow your mind to wander to another place. “I usually will read to take my mind off it,” said Madonna University junior Sarah Puckett. After failing an exam, diving into a thriller novel (Gillian Flynn is the queen for this) always makes post-test stress less intense compared to the crazy situations going on in the characters lives.
10. Remember that Life Goes On
Acknowledging that a failed exam doesn’t alter your entire life alleviates the fear that always seems to reside when getting back a poor grade. “Take time to remember who you are, and then act out of that person. Once you take time to remember who you are and act like that person, that’s who you become — not your successes, and certainly not your failures” said University of Iowa sophomore Katie Gienapp. Failing an exam does not mean you have failed the class and it does not mean you are unintelligent. Failure is simply a part of life, but it’s only a part. Reflect, learn and figure out the changes you need to do in your life that works best for you.