Exams Health Learning Stress Student-made

How to Stay Healthy During Exams

January is here in Manchester – a time for coming down from your holiday sugar high, vehemently avoiding the chilly northern air, and settling back into the groove of academics. Oh, and stressing about deadlines. A lot.

If you’re anything like me, post-holiday deadlines eagerly invite poor health. I for one become quite susceptible to stress-induced illness, poor diet, anxiety, and sleep deprivation. But in my many years of student-ing, I’ve come up with a few tips to help you stay well during upcoming deadlines!

  1. Create a Schedule…

My first piece of advice is pretty self-explanatory: plan your studying out and stick to it. For more detailed help with this, browse through my other post on the Student News site, and see what works for other students, too.

In the meantime, I’ll condense things for you: Well before each deadline – I mean weeks, not days, hours, or minutes (we all know a student who does that… yikes) – plan out what needs to be done day-by-day. For instance, I pencil in what I need to accomplish for my essays, and take it one step at a time. Two days for research, one for planning, two for drafting, and a week for editing.

Sometimes, I also like to plan each day in more detail. I schedule in when to wake up, head to the library, and which topics I need to revise throughout the day. Having a comprehensive timetable lays everything out for you, making each step a million times more tangible. There’s nothing more cathartic than crossing something off your list, no matter how small!

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  1. … That Includes Breaks

Alright, so now we have a schedule. Everything looks great on paper, and you know exactly what to study every hour of every day until the last deadline is scribbled away. But did you remember to schedule in, I don’t know, sleep? Meals? Friends? If you didn’t, let’s go back and revise your calendar.

During exams (or essays, projects, really any deadline that students are plagued with), it’s far too easy to forget to, well, forget. Our brains require breaks to perform to their greatest excellence. Without routine rest between study, we retain less and are more likely to crash.

When working, I silence my phone and focus soly on my work. However, I also set alarms on my phone for at least every hour. After about 10-15 minutes, I have another alarm set to put me back to work. These reminders alert me to close my laptop, get up, and tend to my other needs. These breaks can be whatever you need – catching up on missed texts, having a snack, walking the library, or calling your worried mother. Do whatever helps refresh your mind before diving back into studying.

With all your work, remember to regularly stop, breathe, and get a new start.

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  1. Mind Your Meals

Exam season is when Pot Noodle manufacturers make their millions, I believe. Within the flurry of your study schedule and overall misery, cooking well-balanced meals seems impossible. I know I am guilty of skipping meals or eating total garbage when stressed, but I’ve found a couple ways to keep my diet in line while working away.

I highly recommend shopping in bulk before your deadlines encroach. Stock up on veggies, brown rice/quinoa, instant oats, nuts, fruits… whatever healthy foods float your boat. Then, meal prep like the Instagram gym junkie you’ve always wanted to be. I try to chop and freeze fruits and veggies for future cooking or smoothie-making, and often whip up a weeklong batch of curry, chili, or soup on weekends to heat up on study breaks.

Also, try to minimise the junk in your pantry during exams. Of course, I agree that chocolate is therapeutic. But eating poorly when stressed will only make you feel worse, and an anxious body demands nutrients more than ever before.

  1. Stretch It Out

Ever get those gnarly leg cramps that cause everything to tingle, only to realise that you haven’t left your desk in 6 hours? Guilty! When I focus too much on school, I often abandon my physical health. But let me tell you, you don’t need a gym membership or a rigorous workout schedule to keep healthy during deadlines.

With my aforementioned hourly alarms, I make sure to pace the room, do some simple stretches, and down some water. I keep tabs on my phones pace-counter, aiming to avoid being overly lethargic in my library corner. And every morning (and evening, if possible), I YouTube yoga sessions for stress relief. Not only do these small movements help my anxiety, but they refresh my limbs for handling hours before pens and paper, screens and seminars, throughout the year.

Additionally, I recommend scheduling walks throughout the day. Yes, I get it. Manchester is cold. But grab a friend and walk the block (excuse my Americanism) to get some fresh air, take a break, and incorporate some brief socialisation into your day.

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  1. Stay Positive

Last but not least, remember that exams aren’t forever, and you are capable of powering through them. Take it one day and one deadline at a time, and remember what you have accomplished, not just what’s left.

And if you’re feeling a bit too overwhelmed by school, you’re not alone. We’re all here together in this student experience – both through lows and highs – and Manchester fully supports you! Ask your tutors if you need help, talk through your stress with peers and academic advisors, and don’t be afraid to visit the University’s Student Support Centre for additional help.

Good luck, stay healthy, and may the force be with you during these winter deadlines!