By Tiyani Rikhotso
Exams are upon most of us. Be it matric finals or end of year university and school exams. This is a stressful and demanding time so it’s important to take care of your mental, physical and emotional health. Looking after yourself during exams can help combat the effects of stress or anxiety that often build up or can simply help you feel refreshed, calm and energized – helping you perform better. Here are a few reminders of things you should be doing or implementing during exams to help you feel your best.
Remember that doing well, getting good marks and passing are all important things that should motivate you during exams, but it’s only worth it if you come out the other end intact. So, don’t put too much pressure on yourself and remember the importance of self-care.
- Eat well. Being well nourished is important during exams. You need to get enough nutrients and eat foods that keep you energized and full so that you don’t get distracted by a grumbling stomach. This will help boost your focus and get you through long hours of studying. You should never skip breakfast (an option like jungle oats is great as it gives you sustained energy throughout the day) and you should definitely not be pushing your veggies aside at dinner. Healthy study snacks are also great to have on hand during your study sessions. Emphasis on healthy! You don’t want to be loading your body with sugary or processed foods that will weigh down your system. Good options are dried fruit and nuts, apple slices with peanut butter, popcorn, hummus with veggies or you could even blend up a quick smoothie.
- Get enough sleep. Sleep and exams are often things that don’t go together but during this time its especially important that you get some rest. You shouldn’t be getting less than 6-8 hours of sleep. So, for all the people who “study better at night” try to fit some revising in earlier in the day so you aren’t staying up extremely late. “The best food for your brain is sleep” so you should get enough of it if you want to be able to concentrate the next day and actually retain the things you’re studying.
- Remember to rest. Not only is resting at night important, but while you study during the day too. We are all different, so you’ll have to find a schedule that works for you. Be it a 15-minute break for every hour of study or shorter bursts of half an hour with 5 minute breaks. You can use breaks to go the bathroom and stretch your legs or you can munch on some snacks or during a longer break have lunch or schedule in your exercise. This helps with keeping you focused as our brains aren’t wired to work for hours on end.
- Exercise. Exams aren’t an excuse to ditch the gym or your weekly runs. Exercising not only has physical benefits but gets the blood flowing and circulating to your brain which helps with focus, mental clarity and energy. It can also help ease any stress or anxiety you might have during exams as you can channel your worries into your work out. Try to fit in half an hour of physical activity every day. Be it some stretches, a walk or run or a quick session in the gym.
- Spend time with people. During exams it’s easy to fall into a trap of isolating yourself. We get so focused on studying and revising that we forget that there’s a world with people in it beyond our books. Socialising is important, and you should prioritize fitting some human interaction into your day. Have dinner with your family, plan study sessions with friends or go for a walk with your siblings. You can fit this social time into your study breaks or around meal times. It’s important to cut back on plans you might usually commit to, so you can prioritize studying, but don’t completely isolate yourself. You can still go to church with your family on a Sunday or catch up with a friend over coffee. This can be a great way to take your mind off studying and get refreshed.
Self-care can be as basic as eating well and getting enough sleep. It doesn’t have to be filled with bubble baths, face masks or fancy treats. Although, if you can fit that kind of TLC in during exams I’m sure it will keep you feeling calm, relaxed and refreshed too! But stick to the basics and make sure you aren’t forgetting to look after yourself.