Exams are stressful no matter how prepared you may be, and that stress can contribute to more than just forgetting what’s on the exam paper. It can make you physically ill, not just during the exam but also in the days leading up to it and immediately following it as well. To relieve some of this stress and prevent some of these illnesses, here are 10 tips for staying healthy during exams.
1) Watch your diet
Exams are stressful, and so is dieting. But cutting out too many calories in an effort to lose weight can backfire. Studies show that restrictive diets don’t work in terms of helping students perform better on tests, Steven B. Heymsfield, a nutrition researcher and professor at Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University told The Huffington Post. In fact, he said, they may have just the opposite effect, by decreasing students’ stamina during their exams and their ability to concentrate while taking them. So it’s important to focus on eating healthy foods throughout your exam period (and beyond). Eating well will provide you with sustained energy and keep your brain sharp.
2) Ensure good sleep
A lack of sleep can actually cause us physical pain and many people suffer from things like neck or back aches when they don’t get enough. Make sure you’re aiming for at least 8 hours a night, or try some breathing exercises to alleviate stress. And make sure your body is as healthy as possible in general; it’s a good idea to eat well and exercise regularly, even if you’re not usually inclined. Physical activity releases serotonin, which helps relieve stress and boost energy levels. It also encourages better sleep, which we all know is vital during exam time! All-in-all, maintaining a healthy lifestyle throughout exam season will help relieve stress and keep you focused on what really matters: your studies.
3) Learn how to manage stress
Exams are supposed to be stressful, but there are ways you can help relieve that stress. Keep a healthy lifestyle: Make sure you get enough sleep, eat healthily and exercise when possible. Stay away from bad foods during exam season: They’ll only make your cravings worse and derail your studying efforts. Evaluate each exam question and give it a time limit: If you’ve already taken an hour on one problem and don’t know where else to go with it, then put it aside for now; consider what other questions are available or start writing your answers before moving back to that one in case there’s some connection later on. Don’t let yourself get stuck on one question forever! Take a break from study sessions and try something fun: Studying is important, but so is keeping your mind fresh and remembering why you want to become successful in school. Sleep well at night: We all struggle staying up late, cramming our brains full of information. But if your body isn’t rested (and hydrated), it will have more trouble learning new information, and stay alert through all those exams.
While exams are stressful and require a lot of focus, it’s important to remember that you should try and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Studies have shown that exercising during exam times can help relieve stress, boost energy levels, and improve your focus for studying. Make sure you find time to squeeze in some exercise (even if it’s just a 10-minute walk or short run) when possible! You might even feel less stressed knowing that you did something good for yourself! For more information on staying healthy while dealing with stress, check out our post on 8 Ways to Relieve Stress.
5) Get professional help if needed
Let’s face it, we’re all extremely busy. There isn’t enough time in a day, let alone money in our bank accounts. We might feel tempted to skip going to a doctor for exam-related problems, but sometimes these issues can become serious without proper treatment or attention. If you have a particularly difficult time relieving stress and staying healthy during exams, consider getting professional help. Some cities offer free or low-cost counseling services specifically geared toward people experiencing high levels of stress, take advantage of that! It could mean saving your health (and grades) in exam season.
6) Improve your organizational skills
Organization is key for a healthy lifestyle. If you know you need to make healthy food choices but don’t have enough time or energy, try prepping your meals for a couple of days at a time so that you can grab-and-go as necessary throughout your busy schedule. And, as tempting as it might be, it’s always best to leave exams and important papers until after dinner, studies show that eating before studying can lower productivity and performance on cognitive tasks. Instead, go for some exercise beforehand: Exercise is linked with improved memory performance, which will come in handy during study sessions. And if things get overwhelming?
7) Know what you can and cannot control
Instead of beating yourself up when you don’t achieve an outstanding grade, focus on what you can control, your own behavior. The best thing you can do for your health is to exercise regularly and eat a balanced diet (even if it’s not perfect). Staying active and eating well will help relieve stress. It also helps improve memory recall; athletes perform better on tests after working out because they are mentally sharp. Remember that life doesn’t always work out perfectly.
8) Focus on the positive
Don’t be surprised if your mood takes a bit of a nosedive when you return from vacation. Sure, being around family and friends can be fun, but it also puts stress on you in ways that can have a serious impact on your mental health, especially during exam time. One way to avoid feeling like you’re coming down with vacation depression is to focus on what you gained by taking time off. Here are a few ideas: I got my sleep schedule back in check; I regained control over my appetite; I learned how to relax again. Each time something good comes into your mind, write it down in your journal so that it becomes part of your learning experience.
9) Take it one day at a time
To avoid getting completely overwhelmed by all your studying, divide each day into blocks of two hours. Set a timer for every two hours and focus on one subject or type of learning (i.e., chemistry) in that time period. Limit yourself to just two hours at a time so you’re not trying to cram everything in at once and then failing miserably. Then once you’re done with your block, take a five-minute break before heading back into studying mode again! This will help keep your brain fresh and allow you to study more effectively rather than giving up when exams are right around the corner.
10) Don’t forget your health supplements
While you’re trying to absorb as much information as possible, don’t forget that it’s equally important to stay healthy. Your body absorbs nutrients from food better when your diet is balanced, so remember to pack plenty of fruits and veggies along with your lunch (and maybe a treat every now and then). Drinking lots of water can also help; in fact, studies have shown that staying hydrated helps retain information for longer than studying without it. Make sure you’re getting enough rest and avoid procrastinating on sleep in favor of cramming for tests. It will be hard at first (you might even feel like quitting), but if you study smart and make sure you get enough sleep, anything is possible!
Parting Thoughts On Maintaining Your Health During Exams: It may seem counterintuitive, but actively looking for ways to maintain your health and wellness is one of the best things you can do when exam time comes around. Don’t let exams sabotage your progress in other areas of your life. Make a plan ahead of time that outlines how you’ll stay focused, what changes (if any) you’ll make, and what opportunities for maintaining your health you can pursue. And remember, being healthy doesn’t mean being perfect, it just means having good habits and a balanced lifestyle that helps you perform at your best when it counts.