Exams are one of the most stressful times of year and the pressure to perform is at it’s highest; leading to lack of self-care, over working and sleep deprivation. It’s easy to feel a sense of guilt when missing a day of study or making promises of completing a task but instead ending up procrastinating or doing tasks last minute.
The negativity bias is a psychological concept in which humans give more weight to a bad experience (or memory) than to a good one. This phenomenon is integrated as a caveman instinct, the brain overlooks achievements and focuses on what hasn’t been done. To combat guilt, it’s important to redefine what it means to be successful. Success should not be working every possible moment, it shouldn’t just be studying and it certainly is not about achieving 100% efficiency – even supercomputers can’t achieve that. Success should be about moving forward and making progress towards a goal, even if it is small, working hard and continuing, despite hard times and it should mean knowing your limits. Universities provide access to 24/7 libraries, coffee stations and vending machines giving the option to study all night continuously. If you happen to fall asleep on a desk there are energy drinks and power bars available to keep you going. Not only this but if classmates opt to do an ‘all-nighter’ in the library there is an almost obligated pull to stay, leaving early brings back that guilty feeling and thoughts of well-being are tossed. Looking after the physical and mental welfare stops becoming a priority.
“Calm mind brings inner strength and self-confidence, so that’s very important for good health.” – Dalai Lama.
A healthy mind doesn’t necessarily mean doing precarious maths sums or training for the ‘Brain Olympics’ it means maintaining a mental clarity and keeping active. The balance of work, rest and play is key. Having fun isn’t easy when there is a weight on your shoulders but fun doesn’t necessarily mean going out to a nightclub or staying up all night binge watching Netflix. It can be a planned rest in between studies, planning a trip to a café or visiting a friend at their house for an hour or two. Setting aside a few moments a day to relax and focus on something else other than studying is important and this includes setting limits on study time.
Eating well not only pumps endorphins into your bloodstream making you feel happy but it also helps to prolong life and reduce the risk of chronic disease. Water is one of the most important parts of any diet when studying. The brain is made up of 73% water but does not have a permanent store for the water to stay so needs a constant supply. The cells function a lot better and is known to remove that ‘foggy’ feeling felt when trying to study. More water means a better hormone regulation, less toxins and increased concentration leading to better grades. Healthy eating is good too. It’s not necessary to orchestrate a diet plan but making healthier choices when ordering food, actively choosing food rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as oily fish, sunflower seeds and nuts will help to improve memory, concentration and relieve depression and aid a healthy mind and body.
by Shannon McDonald