A healthy start to exams
April 8, 2015
It’s exam time once again and one of the keys to success is staying healthy.
To stay in top exam shape, says Beth Blackett, Health Promotion Coordinator at Health, Counselling and Disability Services (HCDS), the first step is getting a proper amount of sleep. It’s best to forget the all-nighters.
“Sleep is my number one thing that I say is crucial. It affects every other area, like how well you eat and how active you are and how effective you are at studying,” she says. “So if you can keep to a similar bed time, wake-up time that’s what our body prefers. And making sure that an hour before bed avoid things that can contribute to you being more stressed out, such as finishing up your study notes, but instead giving your body and brain time to relax.”
Proper nutrition and staying active are also key and both do not take much effort. Be sure to have at least one nutritious meal at either dinner or lunch. Being active doesn’t necessarily mean getting in a good workout, although that is a good thing. Sometimes you just have to get away from the desk, go outside and get some fresh air. It can be that simple.
While all exams can be stressful, the final exams of the academic year can take it up a notch.
The reason for this, Ms. Blackett explains, is that the end of the academic year is also a time of transition for students who might be trying to arrange a summer job, preparing to move, apply for grad school or start their career hunt.
These added pressures can prove to be a serious distraction at exam time.
“It’s hard if you don’t get the result you were hoping for,” says Ms. Blackett. “It’s building up that resiliency, that’s a key word we hear a lot about these days. Being resilient in dealing with things that come at you that you didn’t expect, being able to switch gears is a great life skill.”
At Queen’s there is a strong support system available from Learning Strategies through Student Academic Success Services (SASS), to an array of counsellors through Health Promotions’ Counselling Services as well as counsellors embedded within a number of the faculties. There are also two counsellors embedded in residence, to specifically support first-year students.
It’s also important to know that it is okay to reach out to a helping hand, Ms. Blackett says.
“We don’t like to ask for help. We like to think that we can do everything and manage on our own,” she says. “But if you kind of reframe the way you look at it, being that I am doing okay but if I go to see someone to get a few tips or some help I can be exponentially better and more effective and not have it interfere with things that I need to get done. Same thing with going into exams, you know there is going to be stress associated with it but reframing being that this is a time to show everything that I’ve learned as a student over the last few years, which turns it into a positive.”
Students who wish to make an appointment with Counselling Services can do so by calling 613-533-6000, ext. 78264. Embedded counsellors are located in various faculty and university buildings across campus: Faculty of Engineering & Applied Science (613-533-3447), Faculty of Education (613-533-2334), School of Graduate Studies (613-533-2136), School of Business (via Commerce Portal), Residence Counsellors (613-533-6000, ext. 78330 or 78034), the School of Medicine (613-533-6000, ext. 78264), and the Outreach Counsellor/Student Advisor in the JDUC (613-533-6000, ext. 78441).
Appointments with Learning Strategies can be set up by calling 613-533-6315.
5 things you can do to manage final exam stress
1. Schedule in healthy things – making a study schedule is great at helping you make sure you’re well prepared for your upcoming exams. It’s also important to carve out time during your schedule to prepare and eat a healthy meal, be physically active and sleep. Aim to prepare at least one nutritious meal a day, be physically active for at least 20 minutes a day, and sleep seven to nine hours a night.
2. Take meaningful breaks – to be an effective studier Learning Strategies suggests you study for 50 minutes then take a 10-minute break. While it can be easy to surf Facebook, Reddit or Instagram for your break, try instead to call a friend or family member or get up and stretch or grab a healthy snack.
3. Eat power snacks – ideally you want to keep your blood sugar levels constant and avoid the highs and lows. To do this, it’s best to have snacks that include a fruit or vegetable, a complex carbohydrate, and protein. For example, celery sticks with peanut butter and craisins.
4. Get outside – getting some fresh air can help you clear your head and re-focus your studying efforts. It’s also a great way to get some physical activity and vitamin D that we have been lacking so much during the cold, dark winter months!
5. Relax before bed – because it’s during your sleep cycle that new memories are consolidated and stored, getting a good amount of sleep is directly linked to better academic outcomes. Since it can be hard to go from studying to sleep, give yourself one hour before bedtime to relax whether that be hanging out with your floormates/housemates, reading a non-academic novel, or watching your favourite TV show.