Exam season. It’s a two-word phrase that calls to mind so many negative thoughts. Cramming, all-nighters, caffeine overdoses and stress-eating are common habits of students in the lead-up to exams. However, these patterns of stress can put our bodies and minds under a lot of pressure, leading to burnouts, depressive states and even illness. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle during exams seems impossible- and more than that, it feels like you’re breaking some kind of unwritten but binding student contract. Exams = stress = unhealthy habits, right? Not necessarily. Check out the tips below on keeping healthy during exam season, and discover just how much better you will feel this year for doing so.
A common temptation during exam season is to stress-eat. Comfort foods like takeaways, ready-meals and fast food can seem like they are helping you to feel better, but these kinds of food are linked to poor health, and even depression. Conversely, healthier foods are linked to better mental health. A good start it to try getting your five-a-day. Fruit and veg is full of vitamins which help contribute to healthy brain function and memory. Other good foods for this are fatty fish and nuts. Check out a full list of brain-boosting foods here. Although coffee is listed here, it’s important to remember that relying on caffeine to get you through revision and exams is not always the healthiest choice. Over-consumption of caffeine can lead to increased levels of anxiety, insomnia and even fatigue due to caffeine-withdrawal. Making an effort to reduce your caffeine intake during exams is a good way to keep on top of your mental and physical health. Try drinking energy-boosting smoothies for an alternative spark.
During exam season it may feel like you don’t have time to leave your desk, let alone get out for exercise. However, fresh air and exercise is a really good way to keep on top of your mental health during exam season, and get a well-deserved break. Exercise makes you happier, can help you feel more awake and motivated, and is really good for helping you get a healthy sleep pattern. Studies have shown that people feel more awake and happier when they have just done exercise, compared to periods of inactivity. Although it may feel like exercising will take out valuable time from studying, if you are more motivated to work after you have exercised it will greatly improve the quality of your revision compared to normal. Getting a break from your computer screen can also be a really beneficial side to getting out for exercise. Even a ten-minute walk will get you some fresh air and give your eyes a break from your screen. If the weather is a bit rubbish, try doing at-home exercises like yoga. You can get some tips on how to use yoga to supplement your studies in my earlier blog post.
Exam stress keeping you up at night? You’re not alone. Insomnia can be a real issue for stressed students during exam season. It’s important to try and maintain a regular and healthy sleeping pattern. Although it can be tempting to stay up all night revising content for exams, none of that will stay in your brain if you are struggling to function due to lack of sleep. Trying to get an early night and early rise mentality can do wonders for your motivation, as well as keeping you healthy and happy during the revision process. As already mentioned, caffeine can lead to insomnia, so if you’re struggling to sleep you can try to make sure you don’t drink any tea, coffee or energy drinks after about 4pm. If your thoughts are still racing when your head hits the pillow, try finding a sleep-inducing playlist to help you drift off, or dab some lavender oil under your nose before you get into bed. It’s also a good idea to try and reduce your screen time before you go to bed, since your phone and laptop can really disrupt a good sleeping pattern due to the effects of blue light. As mentioned above, exercise is also really beneficial for helping you get a good night’s sleep, so try fitting a walk or some stretches into your daily study routine.
Struggling to stay happy and healthy this exam season? Tweet us at @warwicklibrary, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a comment below.
by Rebecca Preedy