It’s exam time here in Australia! I know so many people are stressed out and studying like there’s no tomorrow to get the results they so desperately want. I think we can all agree that during exam period we can tend to go a little crazy, a little grumpy and fall off the train when it comes to healthy eating and exercise. Even if you aren't completing exams at the moment, these tips can help you when you are in a similar situation in the future - whether you are in high school, college or any other program that requires you to complete exams.
Don't Forget To Sleep
I know SO many people who literally pull all nighters the night before their exam or stay up to the early hours of the morning each day they study. While this may be your "style of studying" it could be doing so much more harm than good. Sleeping between 7 and 9 hours per night can have positive impact on ALL aspects of your health, this includes your ability to study! For example, getting enough sleep can actually help boost your memory. As we sleep, our brain goes through our impressions of the day, which is an important part of the memory formation process. So if you are trying to learn something new, you will actually perform better after sleeping. Getting enough sleep also helps to keep you alert and happy. Exams are stressful enough as it is so why make yourself even more irritable on purpose?! A lack of sleep also causes your body to release more stress hormone, called cortisol, which only adds to the stress. And if all of that wasn’t bad enough, a lack of sleep also causes your metabolism to slow down, and dramatically increases ghrelin levels - meaning your appetite is stimulated and you want more food! As you can see sleep is very important for a number of reasons! Make sure you are getting the required amounts each night, if not close to it!
Eat Small Meals Frequently
It is also so important to eat healthily, especially during exam time. While it can be tempting to pop something ready made into the oven and continue studying, 9 times out of ten it will leave you feeling heavy, bloated and tired. This is because foods with little to zero nutrients work to slow your body down. They are not designed to fuel your brain, something you desperately need when studying.
Yes, when your stressed it can be tempting to throw all your healthy eating values out of the window and drive down to the local burger joint and order the fattiest, greasiest burger you can. You may even justify it as your "treat" for working so hard. Remember, comfort or stress eating will not help you - it will make you feel guilty and slow your brain down. Instead try to eat 5-6 smaller meals a day that are filled with whole grains, fruits, healthy fats, vegetables and lean meats and proteins so that you always have energy and don't go hungry. If you struggle to break away from studying or dislike cooking, doing some meal prep at the beginning of week may help with this. Some of my favourite brain foods include:
- Wholegrains such as wholemeal pasta, wholemeal bread, brown rice
- Fish with healthy fats, such as salmon. I love mine grilled served with a fresh tomato, capsicum, coriander salsa.
- Pumpkin Seeds
Don't Stop Moving!
So many people shy away from their regular gym or workout routines because they see it as less of a priority during exam time. While you may feel as though you might be too busy to complete your regular training program, I 100% recommend to at least go for a quick walk outside each day. Exercising releases endorphins which are your "happy" hormone, even if you don't feel too happy about getting up, you will definitely feel better when you have finished! There have been several studies that have shown that exercise can actually improve concentration and your ability to process information., so a quick burst of fresh air could help you stay alert and study better when you get home. If you are really worried about cutting precious study time, go for a walk with a friend taking the same exam - this way you can revise while you walk!
Plan Your Time
Heading into exam prep without a plan is going to make it so much harder for you and could potentially impact on your end results. Just like a workout plan, it is so important to know what you are doing, how much you are doing and why. I suggest to create a schedule (it can be really simple) that you can follow to help prioritise your time so you aren't left missing certain topics or not eating properly or exercising for a week or two. Make sure to include room for all topics, a walk or other form of exercise, relaxation/quiet time, eating and sleeping. If you are having trouble on one topic, leave it and move on the next then come back to it later. When studying, it is super important to use your time wisely - you can't afford to be over stressing and sending yourself into a panic.
I hope these tips have helped you and just think about that HUGE sigh of relief you will exhale when you finally walk out of your last exam!