Exam season can be a stressful period. Some of us will be pulling revision all-nighters, sitting down on the computer for a long period of time, drinking cans of energy drinks to give that “buzz” and keep the mind awake. Whilst everyone has their own revision technique and how to cope with the pressures of exams, it is important that we take good care of ourselves during this season. We should take care of ourselves by eating well, getting adequate amount of sleep and exercising regularly. This will help to relieve some of the stress and tension that we might be feeling. Also, help to keep us calm, mentally relaxed, study more efficiently and do well in exams!
Below are some tips that you can incorporate during the exam period and even afterwards as it has long-term benefits for overall health.
- Watch your caffeine intake
Caffeine acts as a mild stimulant and can help to improve alertness, attention and concentration short-term. It is recommended that the caffeine limit for the general population is 400mg (for pregnant women it is 200mg). Drinking a lot of caffeinated drinks like caffeinated tea, coffee, soft drinks and energy drinks can lead to dehydration. This in turn, can impair your concentration, cause palpitations, increase feelings of nervousness and disturb sleep.
If you are a coffee or tea lover, try to opt for decaffeinated options. Also, try to limit your soft and energy drink consumptions. Drink plenty of fluid (preferably water) for adequate hydration to improve your brain function.
- Eat regular meals
Consuming regular nutritious and healthy meals throughout the day helps to keep your energy levels more stable, hindering the temptation of empty-calorie snacks in the vending machine. The EatWell Guide illustrates how much of what we eat overall should come from each food group to achieve a healthy, balanced diet. Meals with slow release carbohydrates like sweet potatoes, legumes and whole grain pasta and bread will help fuel your revision. If you study during the day, make sure you have a good breakfast and lunch. If you will be pulling an all-nighter (hopefully not…), make sure you have a good lunch and dinner.
- Consume plenty of fruit and vegetables
As part of a healthy balanced diet, we should consume at least 5 portions of fruits and vegetables each day. You can use fruit and veg as a healthy snack options instead of chocolates, biscuits and crisps. In addition, fruit and veg are packed with various antioxidants and other essential nutrients that are protective for brain health, aid in concentration and memory.
- Make time for physical activity
There is a lot of focus on the benefits of regular exercise in terms of physical health, which is good and true! It can help to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, insulin resistance and some cancers. However, some do not know that regular physical activity has amazing benefits in improving mental wellbeing and enhancing cognitive function too.
It is recommended that adults aged 19-64 should do at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity like cycling and brisk walking every week and strength exercises at least 2 days a week. This may sound like a lot, and you might feel like you don’t have enough time. But a way to get your recommended 150 minutes of weekly physical activity is to do at least 30 minutes on 5 days every week.
You can do this just before you start revision, in between revision breaks or after you have finished revising. Try to go for a brisk walk around your local park, get involved in some sports or workout in the comfort of your own room with the aid of exercise videos. The NHS Fitness Studio have amazing videos created by fitness experts on different types of exercise you can partake in.
- Get good amount of sleep
Having adequate amount of sleep is essential to feeling and performing your best, which makes a good night’s rest particularly important around exam time. Adults aged 18-64 should aim for 7-9 hours of sleep. Try to make your bedtime a time of rest and clear your head before you sleep. Try to solely focus on relaxing and not sit down and think about the burdens of exams and thoughts of the day. Make this a time for you to unwind, recharge and get ready for the next day.
- Try different stress management strategies
As mentioned earlier, exams can be stressful and some deal with it better than others. If you find yourselves becoming overwhelmed and unable to deal with anxiety and stress, there are different actions you can take to try to overcome. One thing that you can do is possibly speaking to a family member, trusted friend, tutor or your university’s counselling service about how you are currently feeling. They can provide you with some emotional support and offer advice on how to deal with stress.
You can also find time to practice meditation as a means to reduce stress and become more relaxed. Additionally, since we live in a world of gadget and technologies. There are different apps that can be downloaded to your phone and computer to help combat stress and anxiety such as Happify, HeadSpace and Breathe2Relax.