Here's something we could all probably use more of - sleep! Admittedly, this is one area of health where I often come up short. I have a lot of difficulty falling asleep and usually cannot function properly in the morning until I've had a cup of coffee! Although I eat well, exercise regularly, and avoid caffeine consumption prior to going to bed, I think there are still a few lifestyle changes I could make that would help my sleeping habits.
It’s midterm season! For those of you still in school, you understand my pain. Day after day of studying and cramming and caffeine… Perhaps the occasional all-nighter or emotional melt-down. This semester I’m lucky enough to have 3 midterms in 2 days. Hooray! (I hope you can sense my sarcasm.) Since I likely won’t be able to post many entries over the next week due to my exams, I thought it would be appropriate to write a little something about ways to stay healthy (and sane) during exam time.
I find that a big problem for a lot of people that causes a significant amount of exam-time stress is feeling like you don’t have enough time to do everything you want, whether it’s school-related or not. You’re forced to choose only a few things from a myriad of options: Study? Sleep? Eat? Exercise? Or social life? Studying for midterms seems to bring on this feeling of panic that you absolutely must study everything and anything that you can or else you won’t do well. Organization and prioritizing is key for helping you feel in control. Make a list of everything you want to get done for the day. Work through it bit by bit, crossing things off as you go. You might find this helps you procrastinate less. Another good thing about scheduling your day is you can make sure to set some time aside for YOU. Hmm.. bubble bath and a glass of red wine at 9:30 pm? Check!
More Focus Isn’t Better
We’ve all been there. It’s 12:30 am the night before a midterm, you’re trying to study, and you’ve absorbed more information from Facebook than you have from your notes (this was pretty much the story of my life last night). What do you tell yourself? FOCUS. Well, I’ve got news for you. More focus isn’t necessarily better! Tasks like understanding, recalling and memorizing are energy-intensive and cause the brain to fatigue quickly. When this happens, we try to focus even harder and this ends up quickening the process of cognitive degradation even more. The result? We get burnt out and frustrated. Moral of the story? TAKE BREAKS. For every hour of studying, aim to take a 15-minute break to do whatever it is that will help you feel refreshed and energized. Go for a walk, do some stretches, make a cup of tea, or meditate. FYI – did you know that meditation has been linked to improved academic performance?
Don’t Leave Your Health Last
Another trend I often witness (and am guilty of) during exam time is resorting back to unhealthy habits. Ordering Chinese take-out instead of cooking, staying in to watch TV because the 5 minute drive to the gym is just too far, and then driving 10 minutes to Bulk Barn anyway to purchase a 3-pound bag of candy… Ah, the life of a college student. My point is, try not to let your health fall to the bottom of your list of priorities just because it’s a stressful time of year. Eating well and staying active will help keep your energy levels up so that you are able to get through many hours of studying. Exercise is also a great way to relieve stress.
If you’re in the middle of exams, I challenge you to examine the unhealthy habits you tend to adopt and start taking some steps to change them! My challenge for the next week will be scheduling time for exercise and avoiding the bag of peanut butter M&Ms my mom got me for Valentine’s Day.