Above: RDS, where UCD students nervously travel every semester. Photo credit: RDS.ie
As a final year Commerce student, Luke O’Loughlin shares how he keeps himself healthy as exam time approaches.
EXAM time is never an easy time for students. The more you study, the more study you realise you have to do. The RDS is a daunting place but the key to success is a healthy mind and body. Here are five tips that I have learned and applied over the years.
This is an essential part to staying healthy, not just when it comes to exam time. If you are not hydrated, you lose 20% of your mental capacity, hence, there has never been a more important time to invest in a water bottle.
You know when you’re hydrated when your urine is clear. In fact, if an elite athlete shows up to training and their urine is not clear, they are not allowed to train. This should apply to your study for the final few weeks of the semester. A point to note here is that although coffee contains a lot of water, don’t overdo it and justify loading up on coffee as a way to hydrate: Water is the most effective way to hydrate.
- Find an Outlet
An outlet is anything that you enjoy doing. This could be your weekly yoga class, your gym session or it could be writing poetry. Whatever it is, find it and do it. In the weeks leading up to exams, students tend to focus so much on exams that their outlet suffers.
Revision week is the most important time of all to take part in your outlet. Spending 10 hours a day in the library can be counterproductive. The law of diminishing marginal returns soon sets in.
Explore various hobbies and find one that works for you, I’ve tried yoga, meditation and exercising amongst others and now implement elements from each. Study week and the exams are a marathon and your outlet will help you complete it.
- Avoid Cramming
If we look at a boxer the day of a big fight, you will not see them in the ring sparring. You will see them taking a walk, spending time with their families and listening to music. We should adopt a similar approach. If you have an exam at 6pm, don’t get up at 6am and do an 8 hour stint in the library. Make sure you get enough sleep, eat well and are stress free.
Realistically, you will study on the day of the exam but at this stage, like a boxer, the training is done – so try to limit your study to only a few hours. Cramming often leads to burnout, mind blanks and stress. Avoid it.
- Healthy Body, Healthy Mind
When the evenings get darker and the days get colder, people often find their energy sapped. This is for a number of reasons but one in particular; we see less sun and thus we receive less vitamin D. To overcome this, introduce a vitamin D supplement into your diet. This will have a massive impact on your mood as people often feel lower in these winter months due to a vitamin D deficiency. Increasing your Vitamin D intake will also improve your productivity.
After you’ve done this, you need to put more thought into your diet. You need to fuel your body with good, healthy, real food. If you eat sugary snacks or chocolate, you will get a sugar rush and crash, so avoid them! Replace sugary food with nuts, popcorn or fruit. Your body actually uses up energy to digest bad food (this is why we feel bad after we eat McDonalds). You want your body to use energy to fuel you and your mind, not the digestion of poor quality food.
Preferably not in the library!
Aim to get at least 8 hours sleep and avoid all-nighters as this will offset your body clock and during exam time, we want our bodies in their natural routine.
For different people, different things work. I am not an expert in this area and I am not a straight A student. These tips and tricks are things I’ve learned, read about and implemented over my time at UCD and during internships. I have found them very beneficial and I hope you do too. Good Luck!