The sheer mention of the word “exam” instantly causes most of us to sweat. As revision slowly takes over, we often find ourselves neglecting our health; we pull all nighters, we survive on coffee, and a trip to the local takeaway becomes a daily occurrence. In this article, find out how to stay healthy to boost your efficiency in exam preparation.
There’s one question you need to ask yourself: Have I been feeding my brain lately? Yeah, there comes those perplexed expressions!
Well, sorry guys. Digging into comfort foods like leftover pizzas or delicious sundaes is not what I am talking about. If you’re looking to learn how to study more efficiently or improve your mental alertness in order to achieve better grades, I am sure you may have tried all kinds of different study techniques. But did you know that simply choosing the right lifelong habits and foods that fuel the brain can have a significant effect on your academic performance?
There are a few simple habits we can adopt to help maintain a stay healthy during stressful times, such as exam season. Not only will staying active help you avoid piling on the pounds, but it may actually improve the overall quality of your revision and even your exam performance.
Watch What You Eat
Don’t be tempted to snack all day on sugary fast food or shots of coffee. You want food that will help calm stress but at the same time boost exam performance and energy levels. Make a point of eating 3 meals a day and include healthy snacks to keep your energy levels up.
My golden food rules:
- Breakfast is always important, but don’t gorge on huge meals that will leave you feeling sleepy while your body works hard to digest it.
- Ditch the sugar – it may provide a short-term high, but it will be followed by an energy dip.
- Eat protein and healthy fats (olive oil, avocados, coconut oil, nuts and seeds) with each meal to help stabilize blood sugar levels and prevent energy dips.
- Ensure you are eating omega-3 fatty acids to help support the brain. Sources include oily fish, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, and green leafy vegetables.
- Snack between exams. Always carry healthy and portable snacks with you – nuts and seeds, oatcakes, cut up vegetable sticks with hummus, low-sugar energy bars or a piece of fruit will all provide energy. Even a piece of dark chocolate is OK if you feel like something sweet (but it must be dark!).
Sweat it Out
Kick-starting your day with a short run or a power walk will help you to stay healthy and wake you up – maybe listen to a motivational speech or song to fire you up even more.
So many people shy away from their regular gym or workout routines because they see it as less of a priority during exam time. Exercising releases endorphins which are your “happy” hormone. Even if you don’t feel too happy about getting up, you will definitely feel better when you have finished! Not a gym fan? How about yoga that is not only for our physical health but also our mental health too? It incorporates mindfulness and meditation, which forces us to engage with the ‘here’ and ‘now’ and switch off from the outside world.
Revision and working on assignments can be quite isolating sometimes. You need to stay social and get out of the house. Even just meeting up with friends to chill out is a good idea – there can be a life outside of exams! It will help take your mind off exams for an hour or two, and it also means you have something to look forward to at the end of the day.
Get Adequate Sleep: It Works Wonders
Gosh! I know SO many people who literally pull all nighters the night before their exam or stay up to the early hours of the morning each day they study. While this may be your “style of studying,” it could be doing so much more harm than good. Getting enough sleep can take you a long way to stay healthy, and help boost your memory. As we sleep, our brain goes through our impressions of the day, which is an important part in the memory formation process. So, if you are trying to learn something new, you will perform better after sleeping. Lack of sleep causes metabolic slowdown, discomfort, irritability and craving for food.
It’s so easy to forget or neglect to bring a water bottle to the library with you, especially when you are carrying your own weight in books and a laptop. Research indicates that students who take water with them into exams perform better. If you find water boring, try infusing it with fruit, vegetables, and herbs to add flavour. Steer clear of caffeine and don’t be tempted by the energy drinks that make all sorts of energy boosting claims.
I hope these tips positively contribute to your exam performance. Just think about that HUGE sigh of relief you will exhale when you finally walk out of your last exam! The end of exam season: that’s the real motivation, guys 😉
Good luck, and stay healthy!