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SPM Survival Manual: Practices for Exam Season Self-Care

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15 Feb 2024

5 Min Read

Ishaanaah Ravi (Alumni Writer), Nellie Chan (Editor)


Feeling the stress of exam season? Encounter practical self-care practices that can help guide you through surviving your SPM exams!

Hey there, SPM (or Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia) comrades! Isn't it intense how our lives on the academic battlefield seem trapped within the relentless rhythm of wake, eat, exam, sleep, repeat? We're entrenched in what feels like an eternal struggle, dubbed the survival zone. But don't wave the white flag just yet — being knee-deep in this conflict doesn't equate to defeat. 


So, unlock your concerns and unload your burdens because I'm about to share some self-care practices that'll help manage the stress of exam season, ensuring you'll be armed and ready to conquer the obstacles ahead!

Managing Exam Stress

You may have heard the following from your parents: 'Don't be so stressed, it's only SPM.' or 'If you had studied, you wouldn't be so worried about the upcoming paper.'


Well, sorry, parents, but I would beg to differ. Contrary to popular belief, stress isn't always the villain in our lives. Believe it or not, sometimes, that Monday morning rush or the pressure of meeting a deadline can give us that 'kick' we need — a helpful sidekick! Enter eustress, or what I like to call 'good stress'; it's challenging but rewarding. But here's the catch: we want to steer clear of its evil twin, distress, or 'bad stress', which can turn our anxieties and fears into roadblocks, especially on this SPM journey. That's when we start slipping into survival mode.


Distress often stems from our mindset towards exams. Whether wrestling with perfectionism, fearing the repercussions of failure, or feeling the weight of what those results might mean for our future, the stress can be consuming, gnawing away at our peace of mind. It's like a storm brewing within, bringing with it mood swings, messed-up eating and sleeping habits, and rendering even the simplest decisions a daunting task. This whirlwind of challenges can leave us feeling drained and burnt out. Without a solid support system, it can feel like we're weathering this exam season alone. 

Woman sitting cross-legged, meditating

Hence, if you find yourself in distress, try some of these relaxation exercises to destress and remind yourself that you have the strength and resilience to overcome these challenges.

  • Deep breathing: Take slow, deep breaths through your nose, hold for a few seconds, and then exhale slowly through your mouth. Repeat several times to calm your mind and body.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation: Start by tensing and then relaxing each muscle group in your body, from your toes to your eyebrows. This exercise can help release physical tension and promote relaxation.
  • Mindfulness meditation: Focus your attention on the present moment. Whether observing your breath, the sensations in your body, or the sounds around you, allow yourself to be fully present.
  • Guided imagery: Close your eyes and transport yourself to a peaceful, relaxing place in your mind. Picture all the details — sights, sounds, and smells — to immerse yourself in a calmer state of being.

Balancing Study and Self-Care

Alright, so we've mastered stress management. But let's face it, that alone won't make this SPM journey a walk in the park. Sure, some might think the strategy to securing that high score is to study non-stop, because, hey, the more you cram, the more you learn, right? But think about it: if that were the case with everything in life, we'd be gorging on ice cream every half hour and never feel full. Just like food needs time to digest, information needs time to sink in. So, constantly hitting the books without a breather can leave you feeling out of breath both mentally and physically. That's why it's important to take a moment, put those books away, and engage in some self-care.

Woman soaking in a bath, reading a book

Self-care can be as simple as getting enough sleep, reading a book, or even scrolling social media — just make sure you stick to a schedule so your self-care doesn't turn into procrastination. (We've all been there and done that: what starts as 5 minutes of scrolling can quickly turn into 30 minutes.) Clearly, self-care requires discipline and commitment, but the benefits it brings are worth the effort. Not only does it make your study sessions more manageable, but it also makes your studying more efficient and effective. So go ahead and give yourself permission to catch a breath — your body and brain will thank you for it.

Seeking Help and Building a Support Network

This SPM journey we're on often feels like we're navigating a maze — at times, we get lost, and at other times, we hit a dead end. However, remember: we don't have to go it alone. Whenever I'm overwhelmed with memorising intricate facts or understanding complex concepts, I find confiding in my friends about my exam struggles or stresses a reassuring reminder that we're all in this together. As it turns out, the feelings I thought were mine alone are shared by many during the exam season.


Just like computers, we're built to handle numerous tasks independently, but like a network enhances a computer's capabilities, having a support network helps us enhance ours by offloading some of our stress. For example, discussing challenging topics with classmates can offer shared insights and strategies, while seeking help from teachers can provide clarity and guidance on difficult concepts. By opening up to trusted individuals, we create a network of support that strengthens our resilience and bolsters our confidence.


So, the next time you find yourself struggling or feeling stressed out, don't hesitate to reach out and lean on others. Let's navigate this maze together — we've got this!


As we near the end of our SPM journey, let's remember that we're all warriors on the academic battlefield. From the late-night study sessions to the weeks of gruelling exams, we've faced our challenges head-on. Despite the stress, we've wielded excellence, fortified our confidence, and armoured our resilience. In the end, it's not just about conquering the exams; it's about the camaraderie we've formed, the support we've offered, and the unity we've shown in this battle — memories that we'll carry with us well beyond them. So, let's march forward with courage, knowing that we've fought bravely and that victory lies not just in the results but in the journey itself.


SPM students, it's been an honour to fight beside you!

Wonder what awaits beyond the SPM battlefield? Explore our Foundation and Diploma programmes today, your training ground for future conquests!

Ishaanaah Ravi is a Bachelor of Education (Honours) alumna of Taylor's University who enjoys reading and creative writing in her free time. She also finds fulfilment in conducting volunteer work, believing that life is not just about what we receive, but also about what we give.

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