With these basic strategies for self-care, give yourself a leg up before that next exam.
What’s your recipe for getting though exam time? Cutting corners on your sleep and eating junk food and caffeine to keep you going? The youngest and strongest of us might get away with it in the short term, but over time it’s a recipe for burnout. Besides, you’re selling yourself short: Why settle for sub-par test performance? Your brain is part of a delicate machine that makes up your entire system, and believe it or not, how you care for yourself makes a difference in how you do when you finally sit down in that chair on exam day.
Even if everyone around you practices bad exam-time habits, it doesn’t have to be this way! Start thinking of your body as a support system for your brain, and take steps accordingly. Believe it or not, you can be relaxed and well-rested in the days leading up to exams.
Here are some basics to get you started:
Take it easy on the caffeine
Lots of us can’t get out of bed without that cup of joe to look forward to. But you want to limit your consumption in the days and weeks leading up to the exam. High caffeine and/or sugary drinks can leave you not only jittery—they’ll also dehydrate you. If you want an energy boost, avoid the harsh caffeine hit you get from coffee or other caffeinated drinks. Instead, try adding chia seeds to your water or fresh juice.
Hydrate hydrate hydrate
While you study—and during your exam—keep a large water bottle with you and sip steadily throughout the day to keep yourself well-hydrated. Eating fresh fruit (like melon) and veggies (like iceberg lettuce) can also help you to hydrate (and they’ve got bonus vitamins and fiber). Foods like cucumbers can help you balance the Ph levels in your diet—never a bad idea if you’ve been eating a lot of highly acidic foods like processed sugar and red meat (as so many of us do when we’re under stress).
Trick your mind into submission
An anxious and agitated mind will perform poorly. If you find yourself feeling stressed during your exam, try this: Breathe in through your nose (for a count of three), and blow out slowly through your mouth (also for a count of three)—imagine you’re cooling a hot drink or soup. This will slow your breathing and bring a sense of calm. You can even place a hand on your heart and a hand on your belly to help steady your mind and body. (Don’t worry—No one will notice. They’ll be too busy managing their own stress!)
If you feel better already having just read through some of these simple steps—there’s more where they came from! Having good organization skills certainly helps you during exam time, so consider the benefits of staying organized throughout the year! Good luck on your exams, and see what the outcome is when you start giving yourself the care you deserve.
This post is part of the weekly blog of the Salter School of Nursing and Allied Health, located in Manchester, NH. Visit us online to learn more, or reach out to schedule a campus tour!