How to Decompress After AP Exams

Monika Jeraj

On Monday, May 1st, the two fast-paced weeks of AP exams will begin. Students from all around the US will sit in big rooms, coloring in circles and scribbling furiously as they race against the clock with their peers. In the Madison area specifically, the Alliant Energy Center will see an influx of nerve-wracked individuals until the 12th of May, when everyone will finally let out a collective sigh of relief. 

Now, AP exams can be extremely overwhelming and bring a lot of stress to students – whether they’re taking five AP exams or just one. It’s important to stay grounded during this time period and remind yourself that your score on the exam does not define you. Remember, at the end of the day, what matters most is that you tried. Also, these kinds of experiences do a great deal in prepping you for the future, especially if you’re interested in a career path that will consist of going to college and taking many more exams. 

Personally, one thing that motivates me to keep studying for the exams is that they will soon be over and there will be a lot of time to decompress. But what exactly can you do to decompress? Here are some ideas:

  1. Sleep! Let your body rest. Sleep is so good for you, and AP exams take more out of you than you’d think. For some people, taking an extra 30-minute nap might be enough – for others, a 15-hour night (or more?) just might be the key to relaxation.
  2. Spend time with your family and friends. Creating and maintaining these relationships is crucial to our mental well-being. You guys can do any of the other activities on this list together, or just hang out. Talk about how grateful you are that AP exams are over. Discuss your summer plans. Organize a little outing. Enjoy each other’s company. Literally, do anything together (I’d also recommend doing more than just sitting around on your phones together, but that’s just me).
  3. Read a book. This one might not be for everyone – some people just aren’t book people, and some people are sick of words after any English AP exam – but anyone who’s ever loved to read knows how relaxing it can be. Getting lost in the maze of words and following new adventures, page by page, can be heavenly for some people. If you haven’t had a lot of time to read recently, now’s your chance!
  4. Go for a walk. Sometimes it’s hard to get yourself up and moving, but even just taking a short lap around the neighborhood can be good for your brain and the rest of your body. Walks also offer really good time for reflection or gratitude (particularly gratitude that AP exams are over?!). 
  5. Watch a movie or show. Binge your faves, or find something new. Anything works, just remember not to overdo it and give yourself some off-screen time too!
  6. Exercise. It doesn’t have to be an intense workout, just get yourself up and moving (maybe after taking a nap, though). Go to the gym, or go for a short, low-intensity run. Swimming counts too, or riding your bike, or going on a hike and spending time immersing yourself in nature. Or, if you play a particular sport, spending time doing that in a low-stress environment will give you a bit of a brain break after sitting down for over three hours straight.
  7. If you know how to, play an instrument. This can be particularly calming, especially if you play songs you already know and enjoy, in contrast to getting frustrated over a new piece. Make it fun for yourself!

There are many other “decompression” ideas out there, and different things suit different people. Most of all, just remember to give yourself some type of break and do something you love. You’ve worked hard and you deserve it.