In his biography of Stephen Hawking, Micheal White claims that in Hawking’s time at Oxford, there were undergraduates who were either bright and studied with perseverance and those who were brilliant but studied very little. No wonder the former were more successful in exams. What was the difference? No points for guessing – it was their ability to endure long hours of focused study. Similarly, a recent study has concluded that Ivy League undergraduate students who had had higher GPAs than their peers also had more grit and perseverance  — even though they had lower SAT scores and weren’t considered to be as “smart” as their prodigal batch mates. The crux of this essay is that rest and recreation during preparation – or any phase of study – is essential to allow for mental and physical endurance in the first place.

Mental endurance can be one of your strongest allies. In order to maintain high levels of endurance, it is sometimes essential to just do nothing – i.e. to simply cut back and relax (among other things!) Here are a few tips that could help you improve your mental stamina.

How to Make Time For Recreation During Preparation

Get more sleep.

We’re not talking about the kumbkaran variety of sleep. Rather we’re talking about the absolute minimum that you should get.
Sleep gives your brain and body time to recover and rejuvenate. If you want to get the most out of your mind, give it plenty of time to turn off at the end of the day with good-quality rest. While most doctors and sleep-scientists agree that humans require around 8 hours of sleep per night, individuals differ widely. You know your body best—if waking up in the morning feels like the end of the world, then you’re likely not getting enough. In order to sleep well, do not eat or drink any caffeine, alcohol, or sugary beverages shortly before bed. When your body’s working to digest, your sleep suffers in quality.

Read in more detail about the sleep cycle here.

Read more!
You might be wondering, if I’m taking off time from my reading, why should I be spending it in reading?! Again, let’s not confuse crazy exam prep with light reading. People who indulge in light-reading such as novels regularly as mere recreation during preparation are able to assimilate information quicker, and have an easier time paying attention for longer. Head to your local library and pick up some books you’re interested in. Read: Scientific Tips to Remember What You Read.

Have a chat with your friend
Talk about absolutely anything. Movies, books, gossip about other friends- anything. Talk about political and economic stories with your peers regularly. A good debate to try to prove your point can simultaneously stimulate your mind and help it grow. Find topics of interest as well as topics you are just becoming familiar with, and discuss them in depth to learn various insights from others.

Stay fit
Jog, run or bike-ride in the morning for 25 to 30 minutes each day. Being physically fit will effectively provide oxygen and nutrients to your brain that can stimulate brain function and stamina. Sustaining good levels of health also prevents harmful toxins or malfunctions from affecting proper blood flow and oxygen to the brain. There are direct connections between exercise and mood, and exercise releases positive mood hormones into your brain that helps you stay upbeat – an essential part of focus.
Studies also confirm that being physically active decreases depression, improves self-esteem and cognitive function in young people. Read Also: Staying Fit for Exams

Exercise your brain while you relax!
Playing games that have an accent on focusing and attention can have a positive impact on your ability to exert your mind in the long-term. The ability to assemble lots of different information and come to a conclusion is what focus is all about. Difficult games and mental exercises require you to do just that. Try playing the following types of focus-building games: Chess, Sudoku, crossword puzzles or turn-based strategy games. One of the best ways to practice recreation during preparation!

Use your time constructively
There are some kinds of movies and books that appear too artsy and boring so that it may get difficult to sit through, but learning to appreciate them will help in the long run. A game of chess, or playing Settlers of Catan can help improve your attention span. Try enjoying something that’s slow and quiet, instead of looking for flash-bang fun. If you want to sit down and invest in something, watch an engaging movie or a documentary. Do something that’ll add to your life rather than just whiling away time!

Schedule breaks
A recent study revealed that taking regular quick breaks, less than five minutes every hour, is better than taking a single long break in the middle of a difficult task. Let yourself stop doing what you’re doing, preferably once every two hours or so. Get up, walk around, and turn your mind away from work for a while. It’s usually easier to remember to take one big break, usually for eating. But set a timer to go off every couple of hours or so, to remind yourself to give yourself a breather and do nothing. You need that time.

Don’t forget to de-stress
Your mind needs both exercise and an occasional break. If you have a bit of an obsessive personality, or have trouble shutting your brain off, it can make it very challenging to focus. Give yourself the permission to relax your mind and calm down.
Consider meditation. Yoga, deep breathing, and other types of simple relaxation techniques can also be quite effective.

By developing mental endurance and strength, you gain brain and mental strength, which you can use whenever you need, and for whatever purpose.

Success in exams does not come easy; there are habits to be cultivated and habits to be conquered in order to get the final, sweet fruit of success that your hard work deserves. Recreation during preparation is just one of the habits you need to cultivate. You can read about some tips that’ll take you a long way in exam preparation here.

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