There’s something about stress and exams that just invites senseless eating and needless abandon of every healthy habit ever cultivated. Not only is forgetting to sleep, foregoing the gym and living off corn flakes and Red Bull bad for your physical wellbeing, it negatively affects your productivity and ability to concentrate. Instead of taking on bad habits that will be difficult to get rid of, you could try to stay on track.
The first thing you need to do is make sure you eat well. At this point in time, skipping meals is not (nor is it ever) a smart thing to do. At its simplest, the food you eat is converted into glucose, which your brain needs to function efficiently and effectively. Keep in mind, however, that not all foods are created equal. Refined foods like pasta and sugary cereals release glucose too quickly to be effective for long while fatty meals, which require lots of energy to digest, can leave you feeling drained. Make sure your meals are balanced with the right kinds of proteins, carbohydrates and fat. If you know you work late into the night and end up hungry, stock up on healthy snacks. Try fruits, air-popped popcorn, nuts and dark chocolate.
It may feel like a waste of time, but getting enough sleep is really important. According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, lack of sleep can negatively affect the ability to retain information as well as reduce efficiency and productivity, things you obviously need to study properly.
Drink lots of water and green tea. Not only is there is a connection between dehydration and cognitive function, learning to control a full bladder has a way of teaching you to make better life decisions. If you can’t do that and have to keep getting up to go to the bathroom, all it means is that you’re less likely to doze off.
So many people (and I’ve been one of them) choose not to exercise during exams. It does leave extra time to study, but skipping a workout means missing out on hormones that could improve your study sessions. Exercise can make your body release hormones that positively affect your studying. A couple of examples are Norepinephrine for motivation and perception, Endorphins for stress alleviation and Dopamine for attention.
Finally you should take some time to do something that’s non-school related. Go outside, talk to your friends, watch a TV Show or read a (fun) book, anything to temporarily keep your mind off the stresses of studying.
Feel free to share your tips on staying healthy during exams!