How to Survive Exams: Maintaining Your Mental Health

As mid-December approaches, many individuals are counting down the days until the holidays (for me, it’s Christmas!). These days, I’m admiring the beautiful twinkling lights around town, enjoying warm cups of tea and hot chocolate, watching Christmas movies with my family, and snuggling up in a warm blanket with a good book.  However, many students – like me – are also anxiously studying for exams. During this time, many students are losing sleep, suffering from anxiety attacks, losing all motivation to study, thinking negatively of themselves and disregarding their potential. So, I’m here to give you, dear reader, some advice to help you cope through your exam cramming and keep your mental health well through some tips & tricks.

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Photo cred: Dawddle (webpage unavailable)

  1. For the love of all that is good, SLEEP!

Many students think that pulling all-nighters to study more will help them retain more information, when in reality, it will only hurt them (not to mention their physical health as well). Losing sleep messes with your brain activity, which in turn hurts your mental health. Furthermore, if you’re always tired, you lose motivation, which affects your studying habits. It’s a lose-lose situation.

        2.  Do not skip meals! 

Just like sleeping, it is a necessity for a healthy brain and body. Food is energy that you give your body, so how can you properly study without any good energy? I’m guilty of skipping meals while under stress, the excuse I tell myself is that “studying is more important than eating”, which is TOTALLY FALSE. Recently, I’ve been teaching myself that skipping meals only ends up hurting myself and even my grades. So please, do not skip meals. And don’t forget to drink water (tea is also wonderful).

       3.  It is okay to take breaks.

Taking breaks actually helps you retain information and reflect on what you learned. However, do not take too many breaks, you need a nice balance. My recommendation would be for every hour of studying you do, take a 20min break. I tend to overdo it a bit, studying for 2 hours and then taking a 20min break. Find what works for you.

4.  Take a bath/shower.

Sometimes studying can stiffen up your muscles and make you tense. Take a nice bath or shower to loosen those muscles and take some time for your mind to unwind.

     5.  If you’re feeling flustered, clean your space!

I often find myself feeling frustrated and flustered while studying, and part of that comes from having a cluttered and messy workspace. Cleaning everything up and then getting back to work makes me feel much better and more focused, it might help you too!

     6.  If you need to cry, cry.

If you keep holding it in, it’s just going to get worse. It’s okay to let it out. However, you have to keep going. You always have to get back up, take it slow if you want, but if you never get back to studying, your stress and anxiety will only increase.

   7.  If you feel lonely, grab a study buddy!

Having another person studying with you not only cures your loneliness, but they can also be a wonderful support system. You can give each other pep talks, help each other out with different notes and quiz each other. A study buddy can help you out through any tough moment of self-doubt or anxiety, and you can be there for them too!

     8.  Figure out HOW you learn.

Do you learn best by listening? Do prefer using diagrams to explain how things work? Do you need to walk around and move to retain information? Do you need to write everything down? Maybe you learn best by combining a few of these. If you find this out, studying will be more enjoyable and less stressful!

The most important advice I can give the is to never ever give up, believe in yourself and your potential. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. Keep your eye on the prize, and keep counting down the days until the holidays. You’ve got this.

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