Home Rise and Shine Exam Season Self Care Advice

4 min.

22 June 2022

Exam Season Self Care Advice

When it comes to exam season, many students can find themselves feeling overwhelmed and stressed during the build up and during exams. For some, procrastination or worry can make the temptation of pulling an all-nighter all the more appealing. The truth is, pulling an all-nighter can make you feel groggy, can make it difficult to concentrate and retain new information, and it can even cause you to create false memories. The exam period can be a pressuring time, but there are some simple steps you can take to avoid an all nighter and make your studying much more approachable. 



It’s essential to take some time to practise self care, not only to help you cope with exam stress and achieve your best, but to take care of both your physical and mental health too. To help you do this, the research team here at Sunrise by Emma has come up with five ways to avoid an all nighter and to help you look after yourself during exam season.


1. Take a break

Although it may sound contradictory, taking a break and stepping away from studying could be the right thing to do. You may think that powering on throughout the night, and making sure you cover as many chapters as possible is the best thing to do, but that’s not always the case. Taking regular breaks throughout the day can help you be more productive and can help you better retain information. Try to stick to 15 minutes for your breaks - this gives you enough time to unwind, but it’s short enough that you won’t get too distracted, and information is still retained. During these 15 minutes breaks, you can also think about taking a power nap. Indeed, short naps can significantly increase long-term memories, helping you consolidate all the knowledge you have studied for your exam. 

When it gets to around lunchtime, take some extra time to get some food, stretch your legs and go for a walk, ideally for 30 to 60 minutes. Getting some fresh air and having a balanced meal at lunchtime will help you concentrate better in the afternoon and studies suggest that taking a proper lunch break will boost your energy while working the rest of the day.

2. Eat well

From the moment you go to college or university, one of the things your family will be asking you constantly is ‘are you eating ok?’. While it's important to eat well all year round, at exam time, it can sometimes feel like an added chore. But eating the right foods will keep you awake and energised throughout your revision periods and allow you to unwind at the end of the day. This means you should be eating three meals a day, and staying well hydrated as well.

If you don’t think you have time to cook for yourself every day, try spending a few hours a week doing some meal prep, so you’ll always have something nutritious to eat. Here are some easy meals you can prepare to help perform your best, that all take less than 15 minutes to make.

Breakfast

  • Porridge with fruit and nuts
  • Wholewheat toast with honey and banana
  • Egg on toast with some black pepper

Lunch

  • Baked potato with tuna and cheese
  • Vegetable soup with seeded bread
  • Baked beans on wholewheat toast

Dinner

  1. Chicken or tofu stir fry
  2. Salmon with rice and vegetables
  3. Chickpea curry

3. Keep active

Staying fit and active while you're studying can be low on the priority list, but it’s something you should do. It’s a good way to boost your endorphins and can help you alleviate any stress you may be feeling.

Staying active also will help tire your body out, which can help you get a good night's sleep. Find an activity that you enjoy doing, because you’ll be more likely to stick with it if you do. We recommend active yoga and powerlifting. With a good night’s sleep, you’re much more likely to feel prepared for another study session the following day, as opposed to working throughout the night. 

4. Treat yourself and socialise with friends

Although studying will take up a lot of your time, especially in the lead up to exams, it is also important to still treat yourself and to continue to socialise, as it helps to maintain your routine and can be beneficial for time management.

Whether it's getting your nails done or taking part in a pub quiz, keeping up your social life is something that you should still do. When you’re at university, a lot of your friends are in the same situation as you when it comes to exams and studying, making these plans can be good for you and them as well. But be careful: do not de-prioritise sleep. Indeed, the risk is to sleep too little and experience typical social jetlag symptoms.

A three-year study into the sleep patterns of university students showed that students who have a more active and positive social life and maintain it throughout university life, are better at dealing with stress management. The study also shows connections between students who have a positive social life and getting a good night’s sleep throughout all three years of the study. Make time to enjoy yourself - celebrate the small wins you have achieved throughout a day of revising, then let off some steam in the evening. Just make sure to head to bed at a reasonable time so as to not affect revision the following day. 

5. Stick to your normal sleep routine

When it comes to your exams, you may think that downing energy drinks and pulling all-nighters in the library will help you get through your course material. This isn’t true. In fact, pulling all-nighters can be detrimental to your health, as sleep deprivation can compromise your immune system. Although studies have shown that students sleep less over exam season, those who try to relax before going to bed, and follow a normal evening routine, are more likely to be refreshed and ready for their exams.

Pulling an all-nighter can also affect your memory, so it may be harder to retain the information you crammed, and it can also lower daytime alertness. All of this along with other factors can result in lower grades and can have a long-term negative effect on your studies.

If you are satisfied with your normal schedule, you should continue with this bedtime routine throughout your exam period. As much as you may want to fall into bed and turn on Netflix and doze off, you should stick to your normal routine. If you don’t already have one or if the one you have do not satisfy you, there are some basic things you can do to establish good sleeping habits

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