October 31, 2019

10 Self-Care Tips for Exams

Rhedyn Ingate Rhedyn Ingate

You’re almost there, the end of the semester is on the horizon! These last couple of weeks can turn into a real grind if you’re not careful, and when you’re busy and overwhelmed with exam study, you can easily forget to take care of yourself (or you might feel guilty for taking the time to do so).

However, it’s important to take a step back and practice self-care to help you manage your stress, improve your productivity, and maintain your physical and mental health. After all, you can’t pour from an empty cup! But, where to start? We’ve put together some tips to help you avoid burnout around exams, and make self-care a part of your routine.

1. Take a break

As ironic as it seems, stepping away from your work could be exactly what you need to be able to do your work more productively. You might think you’ll get everything done quicker if you just sit down and power through it. However, taking regular breaks will actually help you more in the long run - treat it as a marathon, not a sprint. Refresh your mind and stay focused by studying in intervals, for example spend 45 minutes studying and then take a 15-minute break, find the combination that suits you.

Try setting a timer to help you stick to it, and avoid letting those 15-minute breaks turn into 3 hour Youtube binges.

2. Connect with friends

Studying can definitely be isolating and sometimes you can get caught in your own head. Take the opportunity to get away from your desk and catch-up with a friend. Chances are, you’re not the only one stressing or needing a break. Grab a coffee, go for a coastal, or meet up over your lunch break; use the time to re-energise and maybe even ask for advice.

3. Switch it up

The environment you’re in can have massive effects on your mood and your focus. If you’re feeling stuck or distracted, change it up! Get yourself away from that loud group table on the ground floor of Reid and get yourself your own desk with a view on the third floor, or meet up with a friend doing the same unit to study together. Alternatively, change up the atmosphere you’re in and put on some background music – check out our study playlist recommendations here.

4. Ground yourself

You might find yourself feeling overwhelmed or extra irritable during exam time, and that’s totally normal. The important thing is to make sure you avoid letting the doubtful thoughts take over. There’s some great apps available to help you do this, such as Headspace or Calm. Use them to bring yourself back down to Earth, practice your breathing, encourage mindfulness, and pivot away from those negative thoughts.

5. Get active

A healthy body goes hand in hand with a healthy mind. You’ve probably heard it a million times before, but don’t knock it until you try it. It doesn’t have to be complicated; go for a quick run, do a yoga flow, or take a walk around campus if you’re studying in the library all day. Not only will some exercise give your brain a break, you’ll get your daily dose of vitamin D, some fresh air and you’ll feel a lot better afterwards. Get moving!

6. Rest

No, sleep is not for the weak. Sleep is for the people who actually want to be able to retain information and focus their attention on what they’re learning each day. You’d be amazed what a good night’s sleep will do for your performance/mental health/general wellbeing, the list goes on!

7. Find the nutritious and delicious (and stay hydrated)

This is definitely easier said than done, but the better you eat, the better you’ll feel. Avoid eating sugary snacks and instead, pick out options that give you longer lasting energy, maybe with a bit of protein or healthy fats. Basically, don’t rely on Maltesers to fuel you during the exam period. And try not to overdo it on the coffee, especially later on in the day!

Here’s some suggestions to curve the cravings:

  • Apple slices and peanut butter
  • Blueberries
  • Hummus and veggie slices
  • Air popped popcorn
8. Put it into perspective

If you’re still stressed after trying out a few of the above strategies, take some time to wrap your head around what you have to do to reach your goals. Sometimes just laying it all out can help you gain some perspective and make everything seem a little more achievable. Make a to-do list, prioritise the tasks, adjust your schedule, and know your limits. You can only do what you can do.

9. Talk to someone

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the stress, reach out and discuss it with someone. A lot of the time, just talking about how you’re feeling can take a lot of the weight off our shoulders. You could chat to a family member, or a friend who’s also studying; you might find that they can relate or have had similar experiences. You also have the option to visit the Guild’s Student Assist or receive free counselling from professionals at the university.

10. Treat yo’ self

Last, but not least, reward yourself! Make sure you give yourself credit for completing tasks from your to-do list and recognise when you’ve achieved a goal, no matter how small. Giving yourself a small reward will help you stay on track with your study plan and keep you motivated. Reward yourself by taking a coffee break, or have a snack after finishing those chapter notes, or treat yourself to an episode or two of your favourite show after a productive day.

It's not always easy being a student and there's a lot to balance, but prioritising your wellbeing will help you manage the stress and maintain your mental and physical health. Taking small steps can lead to great results. Good luck!