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Five Quick Strategies That Can Help You Manage Exam Anxiety

May 19, 2016
As we approach the summer months many students will be preparing for exams.  Exams can be a source of great anxiety so learning to manage your anxiety in an exam situation will help you to perform your best. Below are some tips you can practice to help you manage exam nerves.

1. Breathing exercises
When you feel your anxiety levels rising take a few moments out to refocus on your breathing.  Place your hand on your tummy as this can help you feel more connected with your breath.  Inhale through your nose and try to pull the air down deep as this will encourage you to use more of your lungs capacity and take in more oxygen.   Often when we are anxious our breathing becomes shallow and we use just the upper portion of the lungs.  As we breath more deeply our tummy will rise and swell.  Hold this breath for a count of 3 and then slowly exhale through our mouth. Repeat this five times.

2. Mindfulness meditation techniques
Mindfulness techniques promote awareness of the present moment.  When we feel anxious or stressed our thoughts can race and we can get pulled into catastrophic thinking patterns about the future and this can intensify the sense of panic we are feeling.  Through using mindfulness techniques you can bring your conscious awareness into the here and now.  One way you can do this by mentally working through your senses, one by one, acknowledging all the different sights, smells, sounds and physical sensations you can feel in the moment. You could also use an object that you have with you and concentrate on all the different properties that object has.  This exercise should only take a few minutes and will help you to focus on the task before you.  

3. Tense and release exercises
This technique uses the muscles and the breath to aid relaxation.  The idea is that you work through the body, starting at the feet, tensing small groups of muscle with the in breath.  Hold the tension for a count of 3 and then slowly breath out relaxing the muscles in the chosen area.  You then work up the body taking a small section at a time till you reach the top of the head.  This technique is helpful as stress and anxiety is often felt physically as muscle tension.  By gradually working through the body you are encouraging the muscles to let go of the tension and this relieves stress. 

4. Mind maps
If you are feeling stumped by an essay style exam question you could try using a mind map to help brainstorm and organise your knowledge and ideas around the subject. Reserve your judgement with regards to whether information is correct or relevant and just try to jot down the flow of thoughts that come into your mind when you read the exam question.  Allow a few minutes for this and then go through your thoughts highlighting the ones that you think can be used to answer the question.  This technique is also useful if you are faced with a choice of questions which all look equally appealing or unappealing.  This technique will help you to access the knowledge you have learnt and structure your answer.  To find out more about how to create mind maps and their applications visit the website of Tony Buzan, who has developed the technique of using mind-maps within education

5. Zentangles
Zentagling is a creative technique that uses doodles or tangles to bring about relaxation.  You start by drawing a box or circle and then you divide it into sections using lines.  You then fill in each area with a simple, repeating design or doodle.  They can be relaxing in an exam situation as they don't require any special materials or tools and they can help to stimulate creativity. They will also create a distraction for yourself and help take your mind of any worrying thoughts.  These can be especially helpful at the end of an exam when you are not able to leave your workspace. 

You can find some ideas to get you inspired here in this video by Art Geek.


Tips for Writing a Formal Letter

May 10, 2016
There are a number of occasions where you may need to make formal contact with someone by writing.  You may be applying for a job, making a complaint, replying to a formal letter or requesting additional information or clarity on an issue. Below is a guide on how you can structure your letter.

Additionally aim to keep the language in your letter clear and objective.  Avoid making personal remarks or judgements.  If you do need to share how an experience left you feeling own those views using f...

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Making Sense of Facebook: A Beginners Guide

April 5, 2016

Facebook is the most popular of all the social media websites and applications available.  According to it’s own figures, over one billion people worldwide are active members of the site.  If you have just joined Facebook and you don’t yet know your way around the site or understand all the main features and language used on the site then this blog post hopes to make this a little clearer.  

The image above is a typical view you will see when you first log into your Facebook account.  This...

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Returning to Work After a Period of Mental Ill Health

March 29, 2016

According to the Office of Statistics common mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, and stress related illness have become some of the top causes of long term sickness.  
 The term 'stress related illness' is often used to describe issues such as burnout, exhaustion, depression and anxiety.  Taking time out from work can provide some respite but this can then lead to anxieties around returning to work. Below are some suggestions on managing the return to work after a spell of me...

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A Beginners Guide to Social Media

February 23, 2016
Social media has become an extremely popular way to keep in touch with friends, family and other contacts. It also provides a potential space for making new contacts and friends from around the world. There are lots of options which are targeted at different markets and work in slightly different ways. Rather than try to cover every option out there I have stuck to the three most popular.


Facebook is one of the oldest of the social media platforms and it is the most popular worldwide b...

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Decluttering Tips: Items That You Can Recycle

January 25, 2016

Embarking on a task like decluttering can be an emotional experience.  We can form attachments to objects, sometimes long after they are useful to us, so letting them go can feel hard.  Often knowing that the items are going to a new home or will be put to a new use can make this process easier to manage. Below are some ideas and suggestions of ways of disposing of some hoarded or unwanted items.

Books can be easy items to rehome, especially if they are in a good condition.  In this insta...

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A Quick Guide to Developing New Healthy Habits

January 12, 2016
The New Year can be a time for revisiting goals and setting new ones for the coming year.  Below are seven tips to help you to stay on track and ensure that your new habits become part of your regular routine.

1. Be smart
By smart, I mean, set SMART goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and timely.  For more information on this see my earlier blog post on goal setting.  

2. Action planning
If you imagine your goal as being the 'what' you'd like to achieve then your action pla...

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Tips to Help You Manage Anxiety when Travelling to New Places

January 7, 2016

Travelling to a new location can be daunting, especially if you experience anxiety. Sometimes, however, it is unavoidable. You may need to travel somewhere new to attend a health appointment, visit family or a friend, attend a meeting or interview or start a new job or study.  Below are some steps you can take to manage the feelings of anxiety you may experience in this new situation.

Plan journey
If you are travelling via public transport you can use websites such as Travelline or National Rai...
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Activities You Can Do on Christmas Day

December 22, 2015
Christmas Day is often thought of as a time when people spend time with family or loved ones, but for some this is not possible.  This could be due to family circumstances, ill health, finances or personal choice.  Whatever the reason, below are some suggestions of activities you can do over the Christmas period that can be done alone or with company and don't require extra cash.

1. Visit local parks and nature reserves
Getting out off the house and filling your lungs with some fresh air can be...

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Christmas Shopping Tips if you Suffer with Anxiety

December 1, 2015
Christmas shopping can be stressful at the best of times, but if you suffer with anxiety it can be especially tough.  Below are some tips to help you manage your anxiety levels while you do your shopping.

Plan Ahead
Planning ahead will help you to stay focused and enable you to work out a strategy for how to tackle your shopping.  Make a list of the items you want to purchase and think about where you could get these items from.  You can then make yourself a list per shop and take one shop at a...

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About Me

Katherine Clark I am experienced mental health worker with 15 years experience working with young people and adults with enduring mental health needs. I have set up this blog to share some of the tips and skills I have learnt along the way. If you have any suggestions or particular questions you would like me to answer feel free to email me at

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