Hijacked's exam period survival guide

May 26, 2015
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The dreaded  exam period is almost upon us. But never fear: we’re here to help you cope with the bloody onslaught.

Panicking, cramming and running yourself into the ground are unhealthy ways to spend your study days – the key to survival is looking after yourself. Avoid ending up like a mindless zombie by adhering to this handy list of things that are good for your body and brains… brains… BRAINS!

Eat well

While you’re probably tempted to hunker down and get buzzy with energy drinks and sugar-laden snacks, your brain cells and stamina will benefit more from carbing up on wholegrains, chowing down on protein, and guzzling plenty of fresh fruit and veg. Consume real food rather than chemicals, and avoid anything with an ingredients list made up mostly of numbers.

Stash healthy study snacks within arm’s reach of your desk: brain-shaped walnuts are good for your nut and pumpkin seeds are full of memory-boosting zinc, while peanut butter and banana sandwiches provide energy - and taste a lot better than Vegemite chocolate.

Get plenty of sleep

Turn off those shiny devices and resist the lure of all-night Netflix binges – your body will thank you for it in the morning. Meanwhile, staying up too late studying is actually counterproductive, and sleeping in too long also has adverse effects. Seven to nine hours a night is just the right amount to refresh your body and mind.

“But how can I sleep when my To Do list is as long as Nicki Minaj’s eyelashes?” you ask. Take a deep breath and continue reading.

Schedule some down time

If you don’t want to spend every waking moment between now and the mid-year break swotting for exams, then don’t. Own it. You Are In Control. And Other Popular Self-Help Book Titles.

Make a plan for the day and stick to it. Do whatever it takes: embrace your inner nerd by making an Excel spreadsheet of tasks, pencil study hours into iCal, take your phone off the hook (huh? What’s that?), close ALL of the internets, and make a giant pot of herbal tea. Knuckle down and get it done. Then you can venture out to that movie/pub/other wholesome social activity, knowing you’ve achieved your study goal for the day.

Do yoga

Stay with me – I promise, the hippies are on to something.

Calming down a racing mind is a good way to de-stress and regroup. Yoga is a low impact exercise that stretches tense muscles, gets blood flowing, and leaves you feeling refreshed and focused. In fact, any exercise is beneficial for those who’ve been flexing their mind muscles a little too intensely. Even a daily 20 minute walk releases endorphins and improves memory function.

If you really want to commit, most unis have gyms with affordable student memberships, and some unis offer free on-campus classes in group fitness such as yoga. Make sure you check to see if your uni is one of these.

Pat your pet

My favourite hot tip for exam survival, and a cure-all for many other ailments: when exam stress gets to you, get cuddly with your canine or kitty. Snuggling a pet can elevate your levels of serotonin and dopamine, which both have a calming effect.

Let’s face it: patting your pooch is also a welcome distraction from the rigours of study, but as long as you keep one hand on the books and the other on Mitten’s fuzzy head, this indulgence shouldn’t set you back.

Don’t be too hard on yourself

Ignore that pesky voice in your head that insists your algebra’s not really good enough, or you still can’t identify a dangling modifier, or you’ll never be able to remember all these motherflipping historical dates.

Look at you – you’re amazing! You’re a sassy student, smashing your study like a superhero. Just don’t let it go to your head.

And finally...

Don’t leave everything until the last minute

Enough said.

Phoebe Hartley

Phoebe makes films, eats dumplings and studies journalism. She tweets sporadically at @phoebehartley.

Image: Carolina Prysyazhnyuk, Flickr Creative Commons license

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