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5 Tips for Surviving Exam Season

So it’s exam season, and you have so much to do in so little time! For some students, this also means neglecting healthy habits in order to focus on academic performance, but the truth is, taking care of your health and well-being during this time can actually put you ahead of the game.

Here are 5 tips to keep in mind as you go through the exam season:

Make time for breakfast

While some students may choose to skip breakfast because they’re on the go, running on empty can lead to poor concentration and less retention of information. On the other hand, taking some time to fuel up in the morning can improve your ability to focus, and can also help with appetite control throughout the day. Let your hunger cues guide you on how much you need to eat. Try to have a satisfying combination of carbohydrate and protein – whole-grain toast with peanut butter, or Greek yogurt with fruit and granola are some quick and easy options.

Stay hydrated

Fluid intake throughout the day is important for many biological processes and can greatly influence cognitive function. Don’t wait until you get too thirsty to drink, as dehydration can result in headaches, low mood, and inability to concentrate. The common recommendation is around 8 cups (2 L) per day, but you may need more or less depending on weather conditions, exercise, and other individual factors.  Besides water, fluids such as coffee, tea, milk and juice all count towards daily fluid intake, but be mindful of sugar sweetened beverages and caffeine intake. Keep a water bottle visible as you study or set regular alarms as reminders to drink.

Include some exercise in your schedule

The benefits of exercise extend far beyond physical health. Studies have shown that exercise induces changes in the brain that can enhance its functioning, including improved concentration and memory. It also helps to reduce anxiety and stress, and can improve mood and sleep quality. The recommended minimum amount is 30 minutes per day, and it doesn’t have to be high intensity – this means that walking around on campus does count!

Take study breaks

Taking regular breaks can help to refresh your mind and prevent burnout. You may benefit from a 15–20-minute break after studying for about an hour to 90 minutes. Keep in mind that these breaks should be “productive” and shouldn’t involve screens – yes, you guessed it, this means avoiding distractions like social media and going down the YouTube rabbit hole. Try leaving your study area to shift your focus. Go for a walk, stretch, talk to friends or family, play with your pet, meditate, take a nap, clean your room, listen to music, or take a shower. You may be surprised by the results!

Get a good night’s sleep

Sleep plays a crucial role in learning and memory, yet it is often overlooked by students during exams. Sleep deprivation can reduce the ability to process and recall information. This ultimately means that inadequate sleep or pulling the infamous all-nighter can negatively impact your exam performance. For most adults, 7-9 hours of continuous sleep is considered ideal for optimal health. Practise proper sleep hygiene by switching off screens and winding down at least 30 minutes before bed, and try to maintain a consistent sleep schedule to help you fall asleep and wake up more easily.