Exams Student-made Wellbeing

How to maintain a healthy mind during the examination season

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With examinations looming, it is easy to fall into the trap of solely focusing on work and subsequently burning out. It can often seem like a waste of valuable revision time to take care of yourself; be that by exercising, relaxing, or socialising. However, it is a mistake to neglect yourself altogether as you will need to maintain a healthy body and mind to cognitively perform at your best.

Here are my tried and tested ways to navigate through this extremely stressful period in a healthy and sustainable manner.

1. Eating a healthy and balanced diet

It is tempting to reach for unhealthy nibbles and caffeinated drinks whilst studying, but you will find it much easier to concentrate if you eat nutritional meals and healthy snacks. Whilst the odd treat is perfectly fine, overloading on sugar and salt will only leave you feeling lethargic and unenthused.

2. Getting enough sleep

Sleep is crucial for cognitive function and so it is essential that you prioritise rest above everything else. If you find getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep a night too difficult, try to find the time for a daily ‘power nap’ to replenish your energy supplies.

For tips on how to prepare for a great night’s sleep, take a look at my blog on ‘how to perfect your evening routine’.

3. Taking regular breaks

Constantly revising without taking a break can make you feel emotionally and physically drained, so it is crucial that you take the time to step back and relax. Dividing your working day up into smaller chunks gives your brain the time to digest what you have just revised, instead of cramming lots of information in at once.

4. Changing your working environment

Constantly studying at the same desk for weeks on end can get a little mundane. I like to mix things up by moving around the house throughout the day, opting for the library on occasions, and, now indoor hospitality have opened their doors, taking my revision to a café where I can enjoy coffee on tap.

5. Alternating revision methods

Let’s be honest, revision isn’t exactly thrilling but that doesn’t mean it has to be mind-numbing. Try to mix things up by using flash cards, mind maps, quizzes, and post-it notes. My favourite revision tool this year has been the mobile app Quizlet which allows you to curate online flashcards and utilise them in a multitude of ways.

For more ideas on how to change up your revision methods, head to my blog on ‘the unconventional revision guide’.

6. Curating a sensible schedule

It is important to plan your revision in a logical manner so that the stress of deciding where to start is eliminated and you can focus on the task in hand. The prospect of revision is certainly less daunting when it is broken down into more manageable chunks. It is important to keep this schedule realistic so that it reduces pressure and not add to it.

7. Keep moving

It is important to remain physically active as it has been proven that exercise is beneficial for brain activity by promoting blood flow. I like to get outside and go for a run at midday to break up my revision and allow my mind to focus on something other than dentistry. Movement is just such a great way to reenergise yourself before getting back to the books.

I wrote a great blog on ‘no-equipment-required home workouts for all’ for those of you who need a little more inspiration to get moving.

8. Socialising with friends and family

Staying in touch with friends and family really does help to dampen my anxiety levels. I have found that talking to my course friends about the upcoming examinations is a great way to air my concerns. Often, they are feeling exactly the same which reminds me that I am not alone.

9. Focusing on yourself

It is so easy to compare yourself with others on your course and become preoccupied on what they are doing differently to you. Ultimately, it really doesn’t matter what anybody else is doing during this time. Every student will have a different method of learning and retaining information, so just focus on what works for you and avoid unnecessary comparisons.

10. Managing stress

Everyone will have their own methods of dealing with stress, and so you will need to determine what works for you. My coping mechanisms involve regular movement, meditation, a spot of retail therapy, and relaxing evenings with a hot drink and a facemask. If stress is really starting to build up, you can always head to the University’s online counselling service to access helpful resources and additional help.

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