Staying Healthy during Exam Season

 

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Final term aka the library term. That special computer in the corner of the second floor becomes your new home and all hopes of a social life go out of the window. A day in the library can drive you crazy; it’s just you, your books and your thoughts. Do you read the next chapter or do you quickly scroll through Facebook? Do you bother finding another journal or is it time for a biscuit? Should you go back through those lecture slides or is it time to consider dropping out and volunteering in Fiji? Students, hang in there, we’ve got this, there are just a few more months to go. 

One thing that students tend not to make time for during exam period is their health. It’s so easy to forget about eating well and exercising because “I have so much to do” but I believe that making time for these things will actually increase your exam and assignment success. This is the time of year when your body needs you to take care of it if you want it to serve you well in that exam room. Your brain needs the best food it can get so what you eat during this time matters. You don’t want to spend your entire revision period pigging out on junk and regret it in the Summer, especially you final year students – think about your graduation photos! It takes a bit of forward thinking and planning but it is possible to eat healthily, work out and study. Here are my top tips:

1. Meal Prep

Time is of the essence when you’re a student. You might not have time to make a fresh lunch every morning (the struggle to get out of bed is real) so making a batch of lunches on Sunday night will save you a lot of time. You could even prep dinner too. Plan your meals for the week, go and do the shopping and then get cooking and put the food in tupperware in the fridge and freezer. Food for the week sorted! I have a more detailed post on meal prep here.

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A few of the lunches I’ve taken to Uni over the past months

 

For me, going to the library empty handed is a big no-no. I’m more likely to end up spending loads of money on over-priced Costa drinks and vending machine snacks and it means I’ll be eating junk that won’t benefit me in any way. Find a healthy lunch recipe that you know you’ll enjoy eating (never force yourself to eat something just because it’s good for you and everyone else is doing it) and make that your lunch for the next few days.

When you’re studying, you need your brain to be on top form. You’ll probably already be tired and so stuffing yourself with unhealthy food is not going to make things better. You need food that gives you a burst of energy and makes you feel good; not something that is going to bloat you and make you take a nap on the computer keyboard.

2. Make your break time your exercise time

I used to do this in College because the library and gym were next to each other. I’d study until midday, head to a group exercise class and then go back to the library for the rest of the day. We all know that exercising makes us feel amazing so when better to get that boost of happiness and confidence? Exercising will take your mind off of those boring statistics and theories and for an hour or so you’ll be transported to a happy place of burpees and lunges.

Take a break halfway through your studying day and get moving. Go for a run, do a Youtube workout or take your stress out on the weights. You’ll return to your desk feeling refreshed, less restless and proud that you’ve managed to study AND workout. Superwoman or what?

3. Pack healthy snacks

What’s a revision session without snacks? For every paragraph you read you get an oreo right? It’s so easy to munch through a pack of biscuits while studying or demolish a bag of Haribo because you’re simply focused on the work and not what is going in your mouth but all of that sugar adds up. Choose healthy snacks and you’ll be able to chomp your way through that chapter guilt free. Ideas for healthy snacks include fruit (dried and fresh), nuts, plain yogurt, homemade granola bars, and vegetables with dip. 

I’m that rebel that eats at the computer desk (sorry library police) and here are some of the things I ate last week during a long day finishing an assignment. Yes, I ate eggs in the library! Although I do recommend actually leaving your seat and getting some fresh air.

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Cashews & raisins | Falafel salad | Dried mango | Boiled eggs

4. Say no to emotional eating

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You might be stressed, worried, frustrated or simply just bored whilst studying and for some of us, food is a way to deal with that. Turning to food as a comfort is very dangerous (see my post about it here) because what we ‘feel’ like eating is not always what is good for us. Don’t use food as a reward either; you are not a puppy. Those complicated terms in the textbook may make you want to devour a Big Mac but will that really get you the grade? Learn to recognise the difference between actual hunger and cravings and learn to satisfy yourself in a different way. I know that I crave sweet things so I always have some dried fruit on me. You could also try going for a quick walk when things get stressful, listening to music or taking a break to call a friend. Food is not going to help you deal with your emotions, especially the junk kind, it’ll only make things worse in the long run. 

5. Drink water 

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This is definitely something I need to work on. Staying hydrated, especially when you’re working at a computer all day, is very important. Failing to drink enough water can result in headaches, migraines and fatigue and feeling ill when you have deadlines and exams coming up is the last thing you need. Fill up a bottle, keep it at your desk and make it your goal to finish it before you leave. Avoid energy drinks, coffee, fizzy drinks and juice because they are full of calories and sugar that you simply do not need. Another option is a homemade smoothie or juice, using fruits and vegetables such as bananas and spinach will help with your energy levels.

All the best to the students taking exams this year.What are your tips for staying healthy during exam season?

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