The alarm beeps at 7:00am. Before you even have time to part open your eyes, a huge, heavy wall of stress weighs down on you, slooowly sinking in. You lie in bed for a minute, mentally reviewing all the stuff you have to cram in your head before the end of the day. Memorize this. Read that. Print this. Review that. Just thinking about the amount of work in front makes you wish you had held on to your childhood dream of becoming Baby Spice, or that lady on some Food Network show that gets paid to try restaurants around the world. Hmmmm…I do love travelling…and food…oh sh*t, it’s 7:01. You quickly throw on an outfit that’s bad enough to land you on TLC’s What Not To Wear, you breathe, down a bowl of coco-puff cereal, fill a coffee mug to the very rim, and you’re off to the library, a wonderful and special place lit with fluorescent lights, where people give you death stares for breathing too loudly or eating a crunchy carrot. After about 10-12 hours of mental straining, you slump your way back home and hit the bed in the shape of a starfish; arms and legs sprawled out. Urghhh.
You feel gross from not doing any physical activity except flipping flashcards. You feel tired from not enough sleep. You feel stressed from all the pending studying. You start to forget what ‘having fun’ consists of, and happiness feels like an alien emotion no longer known to the human race. All together, you feel like your body is physically shutting down, and the only thing keeping you motivated is a constant flow of caffeine circulating through your veins, along with the slight possibility of failing and actually considering sending your resume to the Food Network.
I always find myself in this exact situation, no matter what my exam schedule is like or how far in advance I prepare. I feel like I have no other option but to put my life completely on hold for two weeks and do nothing but study, sleep, and eat. I become so exhausted and drained that I start to question my own sanity.
Being a psychology major helped me understand how preparing for exams involves much more than just studying, and how having a clear state of mind is just as important. Trust me, I am the first to know that none of us have time to take a yoga class or cook a salmon dinner during exam season, but there are a bunch of easy simple tricks you can do that offer some surprising benefits and make studying just a bit more endurable.
To help you out, I compiled a bunch of useful tips from various health websites to help you power through your exams. And remember that no matter how depressed you may feel or how unprepared you are, it’s temporary. Most people have been in the same boat as you, and quite honestly there are worst things in life than stressing about grades!
Style it up
Don’t just throw on clothes. Prepare a comfortable but cute library outfit. This will help you feel good about yourself while you study and boost your confidence. And if you usually wear makeup, don’t stop during exams! The Beauty Gods created concealer after thousands of prayers from tired collegiettes just like us.
Indulge in some aromatherapy
Using scented oil, body wash, perfume, and lotion is just another reason to get up in the morning; it adds a bit more excitement to our lives. Try lavender body wash at night to help you relax, and peppermint lotion to help you wake up! I use Organic Peppermint Oil to alleviate tension and headaches—just apply on temples!
Take your vitamins
Pretty self-explanatory. Your immune system is weakened by too much stress, which happens quite often during exams; so don’t forget to eat those vitamins. Try to take a multi-vitamin every day!
Vitamin C: Aids production of anti-stress hormones, while also boosting immunity and increasing iron absorption. You can just buy them in pills or Emergen-C packets. Also found in oranges, papaya, strawberries, broccoli and bell peppers.
Vitamin B: (Folate): Known as “brain food,” and helps form red blood cells. Found in citrus fruits, spinach, and beans.
(Inositol): Vital for hair growth, has a calming effect, reduces cholesterol levels and may help in the treatment of obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety disorder, and depression. Found in wholegrain food, vegetables, brown rice, oats, nuts, citrus fruits, raisins, and bananas.
Vitamin D: Helps absorption of calcium. Helps normal bone and teeth growth, protects against muscle weakness and regulates heartbeat, and enhanced immunity. Found in soymilk and salmon.
Do the most dreaded task first. You are more likely to be productive early on in the day than late at night. Aka—don’t watch your favourite new TV episode five seconds after you get to the library. Watch your second favourite first.
Turn to your support group
Sit next to your friends at the library or take your lunch break with them—it’s something to look forward to. Don’t isolate yourself completely!
Know your limits
Everyone’s are different, so just because some people manage to study until 4:00am doesn’t mean you have to be able to as well. If you have read the same page three times, you will probably be more efficient by getting an early rest, waking up refreshed and ready to study.
Light a few candles
For those of you that study at home, light a candle or two! It’s calming, relaxing, and will shed more light on your desk. Extra points if it’s scented.
Eat your fruits & veggies
I don’t need to list the benefits of eating fruits and veggies, there are simply too many. An easy way to get enough of those vitamins is by making a fruit smoothie in the morning. Try the Chloe Smoothie: Half a banana, ¼ cup of almond milk, grated ginger, a pear, 1 squeezed orange, frozen spinach leaves, 1 tsp. flax seeds, and 1 tsp. of organic honey if you’re feeling dangerous. *Remember that steaming or baking veggies is always healthier than frying!
Keep things neat
There is nothing worse than coming home to a super messy room. Keeping things clean and organized will help you stay on top of things, and help you look forward to coming home after a long day at the library.
Fit body, fit mind
I’m guilty of completely giving up on the gym during finals, but studies show that exercise actually improves brain function (not to mention the much needed endorphin rush after a good sweat). As one health expert puts it, exercise makes “neurons stronger, healthier and improve [our] ability to learn. In the presence of growth factors, new neurons are born and old ones sprout, grow and form better connections with each other. Blood vessels blossom along side the neurons, giving them quick access to glucose and other nutrients. All this, in turn, improves our ability to think, learn and remember.”
Load up on H2O
Simply keeping a bottle of water on your desk is an easy way to keep hydrated. I like to add lemon slices and mint leaves to add a fresh taste.
Have a nail party
There is nothing worse than being distracted by un-manicured nails while studying. Wear a cute nail colour to make things just a little more vibrant.
Psych majors like me know this all too well. Positive self-talk can really make a difference in the way you think and act (believe it, become it). Things like “I’m going to fail” or “I can’t do this” can seriously damage your motivation. Instead, put a positive image as your computer desktop (mine is a llama, don’t judge) or the classic motivator: lipstick countdown on the bathroom mirror.
Play some music
Playing chill music while getting ready in the morning sets a relaxing tone for the rest of the day. My personal favs are Norah Jones, John Legend, Dido, Elsiane, Jack Johnson, Ray Charles, or Adele (still love you Kanye!).
Slow it down
If you find yourself always in a rush and stressed about getting places, do this little trick I learned from one of my psychology professors: Everything you do, slow it down. Walk slowly. Eat slowly. Wait 5 minutes in bed before getting up. Leave a little earlier than normal when you go somewhere. Get changed slowly. Drink slowly.
Invest in ear plugs
This may be an old trick, but it still works amazing. If you are easily distracted, wearing earplugs will help you concentrate and stay in the zone.
Best of Luck!