Establishing a Routine to Help with Exam Pressure

The pressure is on, and students now more than ever are struggling to succeed; strikes, sickness and uncertainty are a non-stop reality for those in secondary school, and on top of declining grades, students are experiencing a decline in mental health. What can we do?

It might sound obvious, but the job of the student is to… study! Now how do we set up a student to study? Step one requires attending school, whether online or in-person, and this is one of the largest influences in whether or not a student will struggle or succeed. For some going to school itself is challenging. And, then if students are attending school, how can we make every school day a success?

Good Sleep Hygiene

It helps to build a solid routine, and when better to start than the start of the day? Whether school is on or not, students (and adults) set themselves up for the day in the morning, that means a good night’s sleep and waking at the same time every day. Neuroscientist and Stanford professor of neurobiology Andrew Huberman recommend that after waking, we spend 10-15 minutes outdoors to knock our circadian rhythm into action, thereby making us more alert and ready to organise, internalise and process all the information we will be exposed to during the day. There are, of course, other pillars to a good morning, but sleeping and waking are by and large the greatest factors in our overall health.

For more information about sleep you can visit Dr. Huberman’s website:

Toolkit for Sleep – Huberman Lab


Morning routine sorted, now we can focus on the job at hand: studying to get the grades…but what if there are other barriers to studying? For some students the pressure of exams and tests causes so much stress that they find it hard to attend school, which can turn into more stress and it can all add up and keep repeating in a loop.

Adequate Exercise

Young people and children aged 5 to 18 should “aim for an average of at least 60 minutes of moderate or vigorous intensity physical activity a day across the week.” (NHS, Physical activity guidelines for children and young people, 2021)*

Therefore we suggest that the second thing to focus on, while establishing a routine, is exercise! A brisk walk in the park, some stretching in the garden, joining a gym or activity club are all good options to get more exercise. For some it can be difficult to start and it might seem overwhelming to aim for the suggested 60 minutes of activity daily, however, to begin it doesn’t matter how short or long the activity. What counts is that some exercise/activity is done and once you’ve started it gets easier.

Improving Diet

The third thing to focus on is having good eating habits. Eating at regular times can support our circadian rhythm and other processes within the body. Eating less processed and sugary foods, and replacing those with vegetables and fresh produce can help young people feel more energised and be able to focus on their studies. Swapping out white bread for wholemeal bread can also be beneficial, as wholemeal bread has more nutrients and fibre. Eating adequate amounts of fibre can support a healthy gut, and there are links between having a healthy gut and mental wellbeing – so benefits all round!


How can Tutoring help establish routine?

Tutoring is for all students. It’s for those who are getting top marks but want to push themselves, it’s for the students who are struggling to keep up and for those who are very behind in their studies. Having a lesson or two of tutoring a week can help support the creation of a routine, and it can especially help with revision as some students struggle to revise alone and really benefit from the structure a tutor provides. Tutors can also advise students how to prioritise their independent studies and can help discuss how to create a routine that works for each individual student.


* Exercise Guidance for young people and children.  Information about wholemeal bread.  More information about the gut and wellbeing connection.

Researched and written by Aleksandra Dul.


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