You’ve done it! You’ve spent months preparing for your GP Fellowship exams and it’s finally over. Now what?
You’re likely feeling relieved that the prolonged KFP, MCQ/AKT or OSCE/RCE study period has finished and hopefully quietly confident that you’ve passed so you can tick this achievement off your to-do list. You’re looking forward to moving on to other bigger and brighter milestones in your GP career.
Conversely, you may also be feeling anxious and experiencing some self-doubt when re-visiting individual exam questions and how you potentially could have answered them better or differently. The need to wait for your results isn’t helping.
Though these feelings will likely change over the coming weeks, you may be surprised to find yourself feeling ‘let-down’ or ‘blue’. You may start to feel disgruntled, maybe even slightly unmotivated.
This is a natural post-exam experience for many after sitting high-stake exams. It is a common experience amongst students and professionals sitting major exams or at the end of large important projects.
In her 2010 article in Australasian Psychiatry, Dr Samantha Loi describes ‘post-exam blues’ symptoms such as feelings of emptiness, loss, low mood or mood reactivity, general feelings of dissatisfaction, decreased motivation, lethargy, low energy, poor concentration or being easily distracted and bored. You may even experience altered sleep patterns – difficulty falling asleep or waking up early.
Dr Loi states that biologically, this period can be attributed to a sudden decrease in cortisol and adrenaline, hormones that have likely been high during the time leading up to the exams, due to anxiety and stress. The drop in these hormones post-exam(s) likely accounts for physically feeling flat.
What can you do about these feelings?
Though the passage of time will allow you to adjust to an altered focus away from studying and exams, there are a few things you can do to ease and manage these feelings.
Remember to celebrate!
The exams are done. Though you may not know the results yet, it’s still a major milestone that can be celebrated.
Start a new routine
Having some sort of routine to replace the missing study is an ideal way to start. Some of you will return to old routines or hobbies that you had dropped to make time for study while others will look for something else to fill the void and seek new challenges.
Plan outings or catch-ups with friends and family that you haven’t been able to see due to exam preparation. Can’t physically get together? Then ring, Zoom or Skype them instead.
What activities have you put on hold due to your exam preparation? For example, you could go and explore shops or markets, go to the beach and jump in the ocean, plan a local holiday or be a tourist in your own city, read a book for fun, start a new hobby or sport – you now have the time to explore past and new interests.
Visits to the gym often go on hold when preparing for exams. Getting back into a regular exercise routine will not only get you back in shape physically but exercise also increases serotonin, thereby, increasing your sense of well-being, and assisting you to get over your post-exam blues.
The post-exam blues usually don’t last long, but you can feel pretty miserable when you are going through it. Establishing a new routine, exercising, and doing things you enjoy can all help beat the blues.
Loi, S. (2010). Post-exam blues. Australasian Psychiatry, 18(2), 182-183.