What you eat around exam time can really make a difference on how you feel and how you function. Certain foods boost your brain power and it’s a great idea to try and incorporate these into your diet around the exams (and just in general).
Some examples are:
Bananas (have them with your breakfast or for lunch), oily fish, e.g. salmon, tuna, dark chocolate (in moderation, but treat yourself!) and nuts/seeds.
It’s also important you have proper meals every day. NEVER skip breakfast, especially on the day of the exam. Even if you feel too nervous to eat, it’s so important to eat something before an exam so you have the energy to concentrate. Pack a good lunch for the day, filled with high-fibre carbs to keep your energy levels up.
There are a lot of drinks that can enhance or slow down your exam efficiency. Although it might be tempting to drink lots of tea, coffee or energy drinks while studying to keep you alert, an intake of too much caffeine will affect your sleeping pattern (affecting your concentration in turn) and will add to your anxiety levels. I would advise to take regular sips of water, especially during exams. Dehydration can affect your concentration levels a lot.
If you’re a fan of green tea, it’s high in antioxidants which boost your brain power and efficiency so I would recommend a decaffeinated version of that.
The high level of stress amongst students at exam time can lead to a lot of “stress-eating”. It may seem like all you want and all that will make you feel better is a bar of chocolate, but something like an apple is really the better choice. It’ll keep you more alert and has more vitamins and antioxidants in it to enhance your study.
Plus, chocolate and other fatty, sugary foods can have other side effects like acne and weight gain which is really not a good mix with the stress and anxiety you may already suffer from!
The Night before an Exam
A lot of students (I’ve been guilty of it too) tend to stay up really late the night before an exam, desperately trying to cram every last piece of information they can. This is such a bad idea, please don’t do it.
Sleep is so important for concentration and productivity, try to get 7 hours sleep minimum the night before an exam.
Realistically, you won’t learn much after 10 o'clock at night. I’d recommend going to bed early and trying to get the last few notes into your head the next morning, when you’re more refreshed.
How to Deal with Stress
First off, I’ll say very basically that you really shouldn’t stress out at all over these exams if you can help it. Having been through them and looking back on them now, I can honestly say they really aren’t the end of the world and there are more important things out there. However, if you can’t avoid feeling stressed out, there are some things that can help reduce those stress levels. For example:
- Exercising = this will produce endorphins (happy hormones) and make you feel happier, more relaxed and less stressed. Plus it’s a great way to keep fit and physically healthy.
- Meditating = a lot of people will roll their eyes at this. I used to too, but once I stopped making fun of the idea, I realised how relaxed we felt when I did it. Just 15 minutes of closing your eyes, breathing deeply and clearing your mind can actually make such a difference.
- Talking to someone = if it’s all getting too much for you, just close the books and leave it. Go talk to one of your friends or perhaps your mum or dad to unwind and de-stress, chat about something completely unrelated to exams and only return to your studies when you feel up to it. Or, if you’re having trouble with your studies, talk to someone about that subject, you never know who could help, don’t be too stubborn to ask for help!
- Doing something that makes you happy = whether it’s going for a run, playing video games, watching an episode of Friends (my go-to stress relief) or baking a cake, it’s a great way of de-stressing. There’s no need to feel guilty about it, just so long as you’re not being excessive about it or neglecting your studies.
- Deleting your social media apps = I can’t guarantee this will help everyone but from personal experience, it really helped me lower my stress levels and improved my study efficiency. Deleting my Facebook app during exam time was one of the best decisions I ever made because anytime I went on it, I just wasted hours on it and ended up more stressed afterwards about how much time I had just wasted.
After the exam
Once the exam is over, it’s over. Forget about it. Students have a bad habit of going into major detail over each exam afterwards, don’t do this, it will stress you out. There’s nothing you can do about the past so just focus on what you can do for the next one.
Best of luck in the coming weeks! You can do it.