Image: Unsplash
Image: Unsplash

How to stay happy and healthy this exam season

As term 3 fast approaches, we can no longer avoid exams. The stress is building, the pile of notes on your desk begins to cast a shadow upon the rest of your room, and you can’t remember the last time you weren’t thinking about deadlines. Exam season is a tough time and it’s fundamental to your success and wellbeing that you keep a focus on yourself in spite of the pressure.

Prolonged revision sessions are inevitable, whether you’re going over content from the year or cramming in ten hours’ worth of missed lectures into an evening. Whilst sitting yourself down and committing to the work is an effective way of getting things done, it’s a good idea to give yourself a breather. Think about it as if you were doing a workout; your body wouldn’t be able to cope if you ran at full speed on a treadmill for four hours without stopping. Your brain is no different, and it needs to be rested in order to cope with the information overload.

You might find yourself skipping your usual dinner time to get that last paragraph done

Let’s be honest. Using the breaks to scroll through social media isn’t such a good idea. You’ll find yourself sitting there forty minutes later, sucked into a series of Instagram photos. Instead, occupy yourself with something else. Read a chapter of a book, watch one episode of a show or spend some time preparing a snack. Whatever you choose to do, set yourself a timer and aim to be back in the chair by the time the alarm goes off. The last thing you need is the guilt that comes with procrastinating as you extend that break indefinitely.

A common issue students face is fitting in a regular eating routine around an intensive revision schedule. You might find yourself skipping your usual dinner time to get that last paragraph done and decide to eat something microwavable hours later. Whilst you did get that last paragraph in, this routine (or lack thereof) is counter-productive. You won’t be getting the nutrition and energy you need, which means that you won’t work as effectively, so it’s worth maintaining some kind of routine.

Swap out some of the sugary snacks for cereal bars, pretzels or fruit. Not only will you feel more prepared to work but the added guilt of eating another chocolate bar disappears

Finding a mealtime routine might not be the easiest thing to manage, but at least try to make sure that the food you are eating is good food. I definitely need to take my own advice here – I know all too well how easy it is to reach for quick snacks when you’re exhausted from all the work you’ve done (or, in my case, the four sentences of essay I managed to write in two hours). Swap out some of the sugary snacks for cereal bars, pretzels or fruit. Not only will you feel more prepared to work but the added guilt of eating another chocolate bar disappears.

Exercise tends to take a back seat in exam season, even in the cases where it was never really in the front seat (again, something I must admit I am a culprit of). Whilst going on a run when you could be revising may sounds like a nightmare for some, getting some kind of exercise in can do wonders for your stress levels.

Don’t ignore the signs if you realise your mental health is suffering as a result and talk to people you trust

If jogging or the gym aren’t for you, YouTube videos of guided beginner’s yoga can be your friend. Find a quiet space to spend a short time focusing on your breathing and relaxing any tension in your body. There’s no pressure to become a yoga pro or even reach the end of the video, but it’s good to stay active and focus on something other than your studies.

Above all else, your mental health takes precedence. It’s a stressful time and the pressures of the season can become too much. From experience, it can be hard to cope with it all. It’s easier to bury those feelings and power on until you crash. Don’t ignore the signs if you realise your mental health is suffering as a result of exam pressures and talk to people you trust. Your flatmates and course mates are likely feeling the same, and opening up a dialogue will mean you all have a support network in place to vent your frustrations.

Taking some of these tips this exam season will hopefully make the whole period a bit more manageable. In words of my much-cited High School Musical, “we’re all in this together” and you’re definitely not alone in the struggles. Support each other, look after yourself, and encourage your friends when they slip into a slump. Somehow, we’ll reach the end of this traumatic term and enter into the freedom of an exam-less existence.

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