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In continuation with our series about the impact of stress on the mental health and habits of students during exams – we think it is important to talk about the healthy habits one needs to adopt during this high-pressure time. As we advanced in our last post i.e. dangers of academic doping, adopting unhealthy coping mechanisms such as not sleeping and relying on substances like energy drinks and “smart drugs” may seem like a temporal fix to help you get through the season but this reliance has detrimental effects on your health in the long-run.
Understanding that everyone gets stressed during this period and adopting healthy habits to help you manage this stress will not only help you yield better results for the exam season, but it will also contribute positively to your mental, emotional and physical wellbeing. There is power in knowing how to deal with your stress in a healthy way.
Yes, you need to prioritize sleep in order to manage stressful periods in your life!
Staying up all night to study and cram before an exam is very common, and often praised. What we do not realize is that sleep helps us feel more alert and well-rested. According to a sleep study, students who are sleep deprived often do not perform as well as those who get a sufficient night’s rest. Sleep deprivation may cause one to be easily distracted and this makes it hard to concentrate and focus. Additionally, students who are sleep-deprived tend to be irritable, frustrated and are prone to making mistakes during exams.
Moreover, according to researchers, sufficient hours of sleep improve one’s memory because the brain is able to consolidate and retain new information. To feel well-rested, some people may need 9 hours of sleep while others need only 7. The important task is assessing how you feel when you get various amounts of sleep. If you are often drowsy during the day and need access amounts of caffeine to keep you up, you may need more hours of sleep
Remember, prioritizing sleep and rest is integral to your overall health. Studies show that the amount of sleep one gets affects their metabolism, weight, and overall mood.
The impact of exercise on one’s quality of life cannot be emphasized enough.
According to research, exercise provides stress relief for our bodies because it helps the brain release the feel-good neurotransmitters called endorphins. When we exercise, we become pleased with ourselves. This improves our mood while lowering symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Exercise is particularly important during exam season because it helps oxygenate the brain and this may help you study more efficiently and keep calm.
Moreover, incorporating exercise into your study schedule is important because it helps you break the monotonous routine of sitting with your books and laptop the whole day. Not only will those minutes serve as a much-needed break, but they also help you perform better once you return to the books.
Taking up exercise after a long time of not doing so may seem like a daunting task, so start small by setting aside 15 minutes a day for a walk.
The food we eat has a direct impact on how we feel and perform.
A lot of students rely on sugary study snacks for comfort during exam season. Additionally, it is common to pick up unhealthy habits during this time because there is less time to cook or think about food.
However, studies show that it is counterproductive to consume foods that are high in sugar as excess sugar consumption leads to a temporary sugar high that is subsequently followed by a crash in blood levels which causes fatigue and sadness. A recent study found that diets that are high in sugar may impair our cognitive function as well as neurocognitive functions such as decision making and memory.
We suggest you swap the snacks high in sugar for nuts, fruit, chia seeds, dates, sweet potatoes, yogurt, smoothies, and fizzy drinks for water!
One of the leading causes of stress during exams is feeling overwhelmed.
Writing down what you need to get done for the week and dividing it into mini-tasks that you can handle daily could help alleviate some of this panic.
Break down your weekly tasks into hourly schedules and try and deal with something different each day. Breaking tasks down makes your to-do list seem more approachable and manageable. Furthermore, the feeling of regularly finishing tasks releases dopamine which usually inspires us to keep going forward.
Once you become aware of the unhealthy habits that you subject yourself to during exam season, it can become easier to deal with the root problem and rewire your thinking. Ultimately, exam season requires you to maintain a balance so that you can perform at your optimal best.
Aiming for high grades is important but we must do it in sustainable ways that will not be detrimental to our well-being.