Dealing with a mental illness isn't easy at the best of times but when you've got a gigantic workload weighing you down, it becomes infinitely more difficult. To make matters worse, only one in eight adults with a mental health disorder actually receive treatment which means that the other seven often have to deal with their illness without any professional help and some end up dealing with it entirely alone.

This week (8-14 May) is Mental Health Awareness Week and I believe that while it is so important to spread awareness of invisible illnesses, it is even more important to provide those suffering with some form of coping mechanism. This list is compiled from personal experiences of things that have helped me in the past and that continue to be important factors in the simple fact that I am surviving my exam period. 

While this is written from the point of view of someone who has struggled with mental illnesses, these pointers can be helpful for anyone who is dealing with the stress and pressure that so often accompanies exams.

1. Write your day down

Whether this means writing down a revision schedule, drawing up a meal plan or tracking your day in a bullet journal, physically having a structure to your day can help you to keep your mind in check. Furthermore, routine can play a huge part in keeping yourself on track mentally—your head is less likely to feel like it's about to explode when you're following a pattern!

2. Banish the negatives

coffee, tea
Hannah Allaway

You can't help what you're thinking but you do have an element of control over how you deal with it: put your weighing scales in the trust of a friend; empty your cupboards of any tempting binge foods. Don't be enticed by the five Creme Eggs for £1 if you know you're going to eat them all in one go and hate yourself for it immediately afterwards.

Physically get rid of the possible negatives before they become certain negatives so that when you're feeling really low, they don't have the power to drag you any further down.

3. Invest in the positives

Spend £3 on some flowers that brighten up your work space and lift your spirits just a little bit every time that you look at them. If you're not getting your vitamins, pop down to the supermarket and purchase some—I have no qualms about the fact that I take a Berocca every day because I know that I struggle with energy lows and they help to keep me from hitting rock bottom.

4. Don't neglect the things (and people) that you love

cake, coffee, wine, beer
Heema Gokani

Allow yourself to hang out with your friends even when you'd much rather just sleep. They're your friends for a reason—they're just as weird as you, they've got your back and they can make you laugh until you can't breathe. Take time to go to your Church and clear your mind, or go for a run in the morning. Do things that you love and put work aside for a little portion of every single day—it'll help you to become more productive, I promise.

5. Tidy your room

I hate the phrase "tidy space, tidy mind" and that's mostly because I don't want to admit it, but it's actually true. My room is a pig sty and everyone who knows me knows that. But (much as I hate to admit it) tidying your room—especially if that's also your work space—really does give you a sense of being able to breathe again. It's so much easier to work on an empty desk than on one that's littered in mugs and pieces of scrap paper (#guilty).

6. Get outside

beer, coffee, wine
Heema Gokani

Go for a walk. Trust me on this one—if you're feeling super drained, you've probably got your blinds closed and your pyjamas on and all you want to do is curl up in bed and watch five hours straight of Netflix. But it's sunny outside and just getting out of your room and being out in the open makes all the difference.

7. Remember that it's not the end of the world

study, Late Night, cramming, Snack, snacks, laptop, sandwich
Denise Uy

It feels like it is, but it's not. After all, this is just exams: the absolute worst that can happen is that you fail. Never compare yourself to other people: a very wise man once (correction—several times) pointed out to me that your grades don't represent what is going on inside your head.

One of the reasons why mental illness is so terrifying is that no one else knows what you're going through—no one else sitting in the exam hall with you has had to face the challenges and battles that you have during this time. You can't forget that your results don't just reflect how smart you are or how hard you've worked: they reflect your determination, your resilience and your courage too. You're not just battling for your 40% pass mark—you're battling against your illness at the same time.

And that, my friend, is so, so brave.

If you do suffer from a mental illness, I urge you to tell someone and get help—even if it's something as simple as calling an anonymous helpline when you're feeling like you're drowning. And if you're not ready to take the next step and talk to someone (believe me, I know how terrifying it seems), I hope that my top tips for staying afloat during exams will keep you standing through it all.

Online Mental Health Services UK:

Samaritans (a safe place to talk about anything at any point)

Papyrus (for suicide prevention in young adults)

SupportLine (for emotional support including suicide prevention)

Beat (for eating disorders)

Mind (for information on mental illness and helplines)

Counselling services for KCL (You can book a session for any reason—you don't need to have an illness to talk to a counsellor. If you stress is weighing you down or you're getting anxious about exams and you think that talking to someone might help, this is a good place to go.)