When exam dates are looming, self care can shrink in importance. But if you look after yourself during your exam revision you’ll actually get better results. When we look after our physical and mental well-being during our studies we’re rewarded with more calm, more happiness, more positivity and more effective studying – all of which can lead to higher grade #winwin.
In this blog post I’m going to share with you 10 ways you can look after yourself during your exam revision.
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10 ways to look after yourself during your exam revision
1. Take breaks
When we try to revise for too long without a break our brains get fatigued. We lose concentration and our minds feel a little fuzzy so it’s harder to understand or recall concepts. This causes us to lose motivation, start procrastinating and could open the door to negative thoughts such as “I can’t do this” or, “I’m useless.”
What might be true instead is that you just need a goddamned break!
Studies show that taking short breaks in between mental tasks refreshes our brains so we can maintain focus for longer.
This is why I recommend that every student, during every study session, uses the Pomodoro technique which you can read about more in this blog post.
Simply, revise with complete focus for 25 minutes, then take a 5-minute break. Repeat this 3 or 4 times then take a 30-60 minute break. Voila! A simple way to look after yourself during your exam revision.
2. Get moving
When we do exercise that raises our heart rate, we increase the amount of oxygen flowing to our brains which, in turn, improves our focus and our ability to process information faster.
You can use this brain-hack by going for a 15-20 minute brisk walk before some of your revision sessions or during a break. When you get stuck into your books you should notice you feel more energized and focused. You’ll also get the added benefits of walking like clearing your mind and boosting your mood.
3. Allow for joy
At times it will probably feel like exam revision is taking over your life. If you’re studying while working it might feel that all you do is work, revise, eat and sleep a little.
But consciously making time to do the things you love will really help you look after yourself during your exam revision.
Think about some of your non-negotiables when it comes to your self-care. Are you someone who feels at their best when they meditate every day, or go for a walk, or have a bath, or have a quiet cup of tea, or read a few pages of a novel?
Whatever it is, protect that small space of ‘me time’ each day during your exam revision and you’ll find it easier to stay positive.
I have to make a conscious effort to drink each day, so I understand the struggle if you’re not a ‘thirsty’ person. Studies show that even minor hydration affects your memory, concentration and mood. Dehydrated-you will need more brain power to do the same task as hydrated-you, so do what you can to increase that fluid intake.
- Always have a drink with you when you start revising
- Set an alarm to remind you or use an app like iDrated to track your hydration levels and remind you to drink
- Herbal/fruit teas and squash/cordial count too
- Add things to your water to make it taste nicer such as mint, berries, cucumber or lemon slices.
5. Celebrate your progress
It’s normal to fixate on that exam date and to direct your energy to just keep pushing and pushing until you get there.
This is necessary, but what is also important is stopping every so often to celebrate what you’re achieving. Build a habit of recognising your wins and progress. If you use my study planner (you can get it in my free resource library) then you’ll see a space to track your achievements at the end of each study session.
Doing this will help you look after yourself during your exam revision by boosting your motivation and positivity.
6. Fuel your brain
You might feel (like me) that junk food really helps you push through a long revision session. Well, exam season is not the time to go cold turkey so don’t worry – I’m not gonna tell you to cut the sugary loveliness.
Instead, try and add in some healthy options to maintain even energy levels. Fresh fruit and vegetables, slow-release carbs such as oats, and healthy fats such as oily fish, avocados and nuts and seeds will all help you to boost your focus and look after yourself during your exam revision.
7. Stop negative thoughts in their tracks
Even the most successful, positive students experience negative thoughts at times. Those horrible mind monkeys that sit on your shoulder and whisper (or shout) in your ear that you can’t do this, that you’re not clever enough, that you’re never going to remember anything.
While we can’t stop these thoughts from creeping in, we can kick them up the butt and make them leave sharpish. I’ve written a whole blog post about overcoming negative thinking that you can check out here but here’s a great tip to get you started.
If you find yourself thinking negatively about your exam revision – immediately get up and do something different for a few minutes. You could go for a quick walk, dance around your kitchen for a few minutes, have a shower, drink a glass of water – anything to change your state and shake off the mind monkey.
8. Count those sheep
It is thought that one of the many functions of sleep is to transfer short-term (working) memory into long-term memory – a pretty important exam revision process. John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist explains in his book Brain Rules, that loss of sleep impairs our memory, cognitive skills, mood and logical reasoning.
During exam time it can be even more difficult to make sleep a priority, but it will pay off. Upgrade your exam revision study skills and you’ll get more done in less time which could mean you have more time you can devote to sleeping…which will improve your revision even more.
Here’s some tips from Shawn Stevenson’s book, Sleep Smarter:
- make your room as dark as possible
- turn off all backlit screens (phones, TVs, computers) an hour before bed
- cut your caffeine, especially in the afternoon and evening
- get some natural daylight early in the day if possible.
9. Ask for help
Asking for help doesn’t always come easy, but it’s vital if you want to move forward quickly when you get stuck. If you’re struggling with a tricky concept or have a question about your exam – talk to your tutor or your university and ask for their help.
Sometimes just a little bit of extra guidance can have a big impact on your understanding and happiness.
10. Lean on your support network
This one can be the most difficult, especially if you’re someone who likes to be the one looking after your your family and friends. But letting the ones you care about support you too is really going to help you during your exam revision.
When your studying workload’s getting heavier, are there things that your support network could help you with? Could those you live with take on more chores or errands? Could those who live close by help with anything?
If your support network can help you be a happier, calmer student then you’ll have more energy to give back to them.
Don’t forget to grab your Revision and Exam Checklist by signing up to my free resource library below.
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