By the time university exam season rolls around in January and late April, fresher’s week and all the fun that came with making new friends, will seem like a long and distant memory.
Exams are a major part of most degrees, which is why we’ve put some advice together to help you keep your mind healthy during this crucial period of your undergraduate studies.
Keep A Routine
Exam season can be the most hectic period of the academic year, which is why it pays to be disciplined and keep a well-structured routine (even if you slack a little at other times).
A routine means planning ahead, perhaps structuring your days and weeks into revision blocks, so you know in advance what you’ll be doing. Rather than overdoing it, set aside one or two-hour chunks of time per subject, maybe even set a timer to keep you completely focused on the task at hand.
The earlier you start in the morning the better, so you can work through your to-do list, and so nothing festers in your mind causing unwanted stress during this vital period of your life.
If you get the bus or train and you usually spend the journey looking at your phone, you should start looking through your notes instead. This way your focus can remain on learning and you won’t get distracted by social media or the internet, which aren’t always nice places to be.
Get Enough Sleep
Put away your devices before you get into bed to give your brain time to wind down after a long day at your laptop or buried in textbooks. Use this time to calmly read and reflect on your progress.
Try to sleep at the same time every night and set an early alarm, at the same time each morning, so you can build momentum. This way you’ll be completing revision tasks early, and will get that all-important endorphin boost well before lunchtime rolls around.
Your diet can have a real impact on your ability to focus, with nutritionists recommending that amongst other food types, eating whole grains, nuts and berries, and drinking enough water will have a positive effect
Stuck for healthy ideas? Take some brain-boosting foods to your revision session:
Lunch: Pasta, rice or couscous-based leftovers or a starchy, whole grain sandwich or bagel.
For after: Natural yoghurt, an apple, some berries or some dark chocolate.
Never skip meals during exam season. Your brain will lose out on the important fuel it needs, while your concentration will be badly affected if your blood sugar drops.
If you like drinking coffee, be aware of how you react to it. Some people can sleep right after drinking caffeine, and others have much stronger side effects, so try not to overdo it.
Cut out alcohol during your busiest exam period, and choose exercise over a beer or wine when it’s time to de-stress. Alcohol has a detrimental effect on sleep, as too much can affect our ability to remember things, which isn’t helpful when you need to cram in all that knowledge!
Being stressed or anxious during exam season is perfectly normal, although you can offset these negative feelings by exercising and getting some endorphins flowing.
Going to the gym or for a run, swim or cycle before or after revision helps concentration and improves self-esteem. Exercise also balances the chemicals in your brain, boosting your mental and physical wellbeing, ultimately improving your ability to sit down and learn.
Don’t revise all day. Take regular breaks and try going outside to get some fresh air when possible. Time spent connecting with nature is ideal for taking a breather, thinking over your revision plans and long-term goals.
Breathing exercises are another way to reduce stress levels and improve concentration. Why not do it now? Close your eyes, then try breathing in slowly through your nose and counting to eight. As you breathe in, imagine your stomach filling with air and lift your chest upwards as you do.
Cut Out Social Media
There are plenty of reports that suggest looking at social media disrupts our concentration, and that we look at our phones on average every 12 minutes. This means exam season is the perfect time to cut out that endless scrolling and those wasted minutes reading the comments.
Do yourself a favour, and abstain from social media until your exams are over, or forever if you think you can, because it’ll help your ability to concentrate over the longer-term.
Keep Doing What You Enjoy
This busy period doesn’t mean stopping the things you enjoy. But rather than overindulging, use your favourite hobbies and activities as rewards once you’ve ticked items off your to-do list.
Once you’ve completed a revision block or have finished for the day, treat yourself, whether that’s going to the cinema, meeting friends in the park, going on a long walk or gaming. Do something that you love.
Find Out More
Take a look at our blog if you’d like to learn more about student life.