Exam season is barreling through. And we both know how stressful that time of year can be!
In college (just a few years ago now) I tried so many different methods of staying alert and focused and doing my best not to lose steam.
Here are some tried and true tips for making it through the next few weeks, that everyone can agree will help! I’ll include some of my personal tips at the end that helped me out :)
I had zero inkling that I had ADHD when I was in college. Now that I know, I believe that these tips are extra essential in maintaining focus. To learn more about my ADHD Journey visit my first blog post here.
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They say taking breaks is vital in sustaining attention and keeping your brain from overheating 🥵. Just how frequently may differ per person. At most a five minute break every 20 minutes (specifically if you get bored very easily) or five to ten minutes every hour, and a good 15-30 minute break after 2-4 hours.
I find that this may vary depending on your own personal attention span, your passion for the subject you’re studying, the way you’re feeling that day, and just whether or not you’re in the mood, ya know?
The worse you feel and the more you dislike what you’re studying - take MORE frequent breaks, not less. You may feel inclined to study harder and force yourself to stick through so that you have more time to study. Doing that will just make it more difficult to absorb the information. Give yourself a break when your brain asks for it. Let it digest the information one step at a time.
Take a walk outside, even in the cold! Give your brain a break and time to recoup.
See how the steps are compounding? Don’t just sit idly by the computer when you take your 5 minute breaks. Take a walk around the building. Go out the doors and feel the fresh air just for a moment. A change of scenery gives your brain a good refresh, especially when you step outside. Use this opportunity away from the noise of academia to take a mindful moment. Observe and log your five senses. What does the air feel like, what do you smell, what do you hear, what do you see?
Use this time to DRINK WATER. Hydration (And FOOD FUEL) is so very important for healthy brain function. Skipping even 1 meal can make a difference!
(For those of you who noticed -here’s sense number 5: taste.) I forget to drink water all the time. I’m one of the most dehydrated people I know, and it’s terrible. But with having a computer/desk job, I’ve been utilizing these breaks a little more often, and it’s a good way to forcibly remind yourself to drink water (without setting an alarm specifically to do so). Make it a habit to take a swig every time you give yourself a break. Spend the full length of the break taking more sips. And if you’re due for a meal, grab a healthy bite. You’ll feel refreshed and energized afterwards.
MOVE YOUR BODY
Exercise helps brain function too!
Run up and down the stairs on your break to pump more oxygenated blood to your brain. Or perform a few stretches to reset your cramped body. Stand up, touch your toes, reach back over your head and stretch like you’re having a great yawn, gently stretch your neck side to side- forward and back, and stretch your ankles and wiggle your toes. Blood flow is important!!
Best scenario? Kill four birds with one stone! Take a fiver, walk outside, do a little stretch, drink your water and have a snack. You can totally give yourself a really good 15 minute break and do all of these steps. Each of them are perfectly healthy and very beneficial for your sanity and for your studies.
So as far as your sanity goes? De-stress, de-stress, de-stress. A stressed out brain is no good for your finals, and no good for your health. Giving your mind and body the health it needs will help it perform better.
TREAT YOURSELF TO A MASSAGE
Lastly, and if your able, schedule a massage to reward yourself for a job well done, or as a de-stresser amidst your finals. Relax, restore, and detox your body from the sleepless, sitting marathon of finals week. When you’re so stressed out it seems like there’s no end in site, take an hour out of your day to relax. One of the best ways to do so is with massage (biased opinion of course). With the insane benefits of massage, from increased blood flow, removal of toxins through your lymphatic system, easing tense muscles and working out stiff knots, and the feel good endorphins you get, all of these will help your body and your brain perform better.
If it’s not feasible to take that much time for yourself in the middle of exams and papers. Promise yourself a reward when you finish. Give yourself something to look forward to, and once your semester is over, TAKE. THAT. BREAK.
You 100% deserve it.
Bonus personal tip for the people-people.
I’m extremely extroverted and my brain genuinely shuts down when I’m alone. I get depressed, I can’t move, my executive function is completely unresponsive; even if it’s just for a few hours depending on the day. Now this isn’t always constant, and sometimes I need to be alone for a bit, but most of the time, I need people.
I had one friend who locked herself in her immaculate minimalist dorm room and studied alone for the majority of the time. NOT FOR ME. For one thing, I’m cluttered and messy and terrible so my personal desk is no place for focused studying.
Empty classrooms, lounges, the cafeteria, common rooms, and the library were my saving grace. I would switch up venues quite frequently. I would also go with friends - now this can vary for different people, some like study groups while others like to be left alone. Personally I needed the company more than the group work, so we’d work on our own studies; but together for occasional chatting and camaraderie.
Studying in the cafeteria also worked quite well, since I had food in the immediate vicinity when meal time rolled around. My school had designated meal times, so in between breakfast, lunch and dinner, the room was relatively empty and easier to spread out my study materials.
I hope these tips help you out! I know a lot of times tips like these can be so redundant, or like common sense, "that's what everyone says." But usually that’s because they’re true! So just remind yourself, write it down on a sticky note and tape it to your laptop.
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