Taking Care of Yourself During Exams

It’s April, the snow has melted, the sun is finally shining, the library is packed and everyone at uOttawa is in the middle of the most stressful weeks of the year; in other words, finals are here. Whether you’re in first or fourth year, exams will push you to your limits and in the mayhem of working to ace finals, it can be so easy to forget about taking care of yourself. Neglecting your own health and wellbeing during exams will do more damage than good. Binge eating, lack of sleep, minimal exercise and high stress can severely affect you, lowering cognitive abilities such as memory and recall, diminishing your ability to focus, putting much more strain on your body and negatively impacting your exam performance.  I know it can be difficult – sometimes almost impossible – to pull yourself away from the computer screen or textbooks when you feel like you’re not prepared enough, but this last week of exams, listen to your body and check out these tips to take care of yourself.

When you feel tired, take a nap.

Napping - the most cultivated skill of all university students! Taking a nap can massively impact your ability to focus and recall information as you study. We’ve all been there, going to bed at 1 or 2 am, waking up at 6 or 7; it takes an immense toll on your body. Sleep is an important aspect of succeeding during exams and when you feel like you’ve been reading the same thing for the last twenty minutes without understanding it, take a break and snooze for a bit. Since your cognitive recall abilities are solidified by sleep, so try to increase your hours of sleep rather than decrease them!

Avoid Binge Eating Junk Food.

We’ve been making meals for almost eight months at this point and there may be limited motivation during these last few weeks. It is way easier to order take-out or eat mac-n-cheese for each meal – plus more comforting – but your diet can also have a huge impact on your ability to study and perform well. High calorie, fat, sodium and added sugar foods can bog your body down and even slow your mental processes, making it harder to study, think critically and adapt to new situations – such as exams. By all means, treat yourself after a long day or a tough exam, but maintain a healthy, balanced diet to improve your overall health and success during finals.

Take a Walk.

I find spring exams are always so much easier than the winter ones; the sun is out, it’s warm, you can sit out on Tabaret Lawn and study while soaking up the much-missed vitamin D. Getting outside and taking a big breath of fresh air can be one of the easiest ways to de-stress and reset during exams. When you feel like you’re getting nowhere with your studying or paper, go for a quick twenty-minute walk for a change in scenery and a little break. Your body will thank you and afterwards, you’ll be ready to get back to work.

Hit the Gym.

Working out is one of the best ways to release stress and anxiety. Exercising releases endorphins that also promote good mood, focus and all-day energy to help you get through a day of hitting the books. If you’re feeling particularly stressed, you can always take your anger out in the martial arts room covered in mats at Mont-Petit gym. Bonus: Bringing your notes or flashcards on your treadmill or elliptical runs to study while you exercise can increase the amount of information you retain!

Wind Down.

During finals, we’re pretty much in a state of perpetual stress. This constant state of strain on our bodies can also take a mental and physical toll, so taking time out of studying to solely focus on relaxation can make a world of difference when dealing with exam stress. Schedule time to take a warm bath, watch your favorite Rom-Com or go out to dinner with a friend! Making time to do something unrelated to studying will give you something to look forward to and give you a little break from the continual stress of exams. Even if it’s just an hour to catch up on the latest episode of your favorite show, make time to do something you enjoy and relaxes you.

Take a Yoga Break.

Yoga is an incredible way to de-stress and work out any tension in your body as well as take some personal time to just reflect and breath. Stretching and taking breaks to get your blood flowing can vastly improve your focus and recall ability. Even if you’re a beginner, youtube has some fantastic, quick yoga lessons for all levels – my personal favorite is Yoga With Adriene!

Drink Water.

I’m still not convinced that water doesn’t have at least some magical properties; it improves your skin, boosts your energy, detoxes your system and here’s the big one, it increases brain cell efficiency, which improves your memory and recall abilities – pretty magical! Staying properly hydrated is super important during exams to maintain optimal brain functions. Coffee is great for that fleeting caffeine kick, but to avoid dehydration this exam season, try to drink at least one glass of water for every caffeinated drink you have and aim to drink at least 8 cups of water a day!

Exam time is always stressful, regardless of how well-prepared you are, but always remember that your personal well-being is the most important thing and grades are not worth sacrificing your health or sanity. Hopefully these tips will help to make this next month a little easier and good luck to everyone writing exams!  


Sources: Cover, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7