Rachel Kelly

Rachel Kelly

Writer, journalist and mental health campaigner Rachel Kelly was diagnosed with severe depression in her 30s. Her account of those times, ‘Black Rainbow’ went on to become a Sunday Times Bestseller and her second book, Walking On Sunshine: 52 Steps to Happiness was a bestseller around the world.

Rachel's Advice: How to Survive Exams

In this guest blog post, author and YoungMinds Ambassador Rachel Kelly shares her tips on coping with exam stress.

Perfect grades don't make a perfect life

The days are getting longer, the weather is beginning to brighten, but exams can cast a long shadow over the beginning of summer. It can feel like the world will judge you on how many A and A* grades you achieve. And the pressure to perform can last well into adulthood. The belief seems to be that we have ‘succeeded’ if we achieve the equivalent perfect grades in our lives.

Learn to love the journey

While we all know it’s supposed to be the journey that matters, it is easy to slip into the trap of focusing on the destination. It may feel that the only thing that matters is getting into the uni or college you have set your heart on, but there are always more paths to your goal than you can imagine. Having attended a competitive school, I’ve had to take the time to understand that life is not a box-ticking exercise. However, I’m still prone to feeling inadequate when I define life as a series of milestones and find I’m not at the place I have decided is an arbitrary indicator of success.

Having attended a competitive school, I’ve had to take the time to understand that life is not a box-ticking exercise.

Two kinds of intelligence

I like the idea, expressed by the thirteenth-century Persian mystic Jalaluddin Rumi, that there are two kinds of intelligence: one based on learning facts and figures, and another we’re born with – ‘A freshness in the centre of the chest’. We tend to put more emphasis on the first kind, but the two are equally valid.

Don’t beat yourself up

Personally, I am at my happiest when I’m engaging in the task at hand, savouring the satisfaction of trying my best and not beating myself up if it all goes wrong. Flip into the world of results and ‘achievement’ and I quickly become anxious, pressurised by my own and society’s expectations.

So while there’s no avoiding exams, and you probably shouldn’t tear up your report, do try and tear up the one in your own head.

Rachel Kelly is an author, journalist and mental health campaigner. She’s written books on her personal experience of depression which she hopes will help and inspire others.

Coping With Mental Health Issues
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