You can feel the pre-exam butterflies in your stomach and you respond by pouring over your notes one more time. But the anxiety is crippling, and the faster your heart beats, the fuzzier your brain becomes. When exam day arrives, you fumble your way through the fog and carry those nerves into the papers that follow.
Wouldn’t it be nice to occupy a calm headspace so you can study methodically, enjoy what you’re learning, and eventually write the best paper possible?
As counterintuitive as it might seem, the trick might be to do less.
Science suggests that real focus comes from being in a relaxed state, so we’ve got five tips on how to calm the mind and body, supported by insights from Dr. Mark Williamson. Dr. Williamson is the co-founder of Action for Happiness and contributor to a recent campaign exploring the ways people relax all over the world.
Anxiety is the result of our evolutionary reaction to life-threatening events. While your calculus exam may not be the same as fighting off a lion, you can’t study effectively if you’re anxious because your body will be in a permanent fight or flight mode. The answer? Step up your exercise game. According to Dr. Williamson, “Physical activity can potentially be as effective as antidepressants for alleviating some forms of depression and anxiety.”
Plenty of universities and colleges nationwide have exercise-inviting opportunities!. During orientation, make sure to take a tour of the recreational facilities. Universities post their class schedules on their websites that are often taught by Exercise Science majors. Don’t forget about intramurals, hiking clubs, and outdoors clubs.
Which brings us to our next point:
Often times as a college student, your daily routine involves a lot of sitting around staring at screens and sitting in lecture halls. That’s not good for your mental health and while it may seem productive, it can often cause us to end up in a bout of procrastination.
Make an effort to tear yourself away from the laptop and soak up the outdoors. Science shows that being in nature can boost your memory, your mood, and particularly your vision. Make it a practice every 15 minutes to look up from your screen to the furthest place you can see for 30 seconds in order to exercise your eyeballs.
Returning to studying after an extended walk around the campus courtyard will likely make you feel refreshed and energized. The additional sunshine will increase your absorption of Vitamin D, a significant factor in your ability to maintain your busy schedule.
Eat Your Veggies!
When you’re in your residential hall’s dining room cafe, make sure not to reach for the chocolate-laden cereal but rather a meal low insurance and loaded with healthy fats. Studies show that this can make a measurable difference in the way we process information and deal with stress. When you first wake up, your body is in a fasting state and will grab on to the first thing it gets. Sugary items will immediately spike your blood sugar for a temporary energy burst and will soon be followed by a crash. Mental clarity will be hard to come by.
Many universities have a plentiful array of nuts in their dining halls. Consuming cashews can be just as much as an anti-depressant as exercise can. Pay careful attention to your dietary habits your first time away from home.
When your laundry list is larger than your actual laundry pile itself, it’s hard not to multi-task. The Pomodoro Technique developed by Francesco Cirillo can help you focus on one important task and not be distracted by the impending others. Start up the stopwatch on your phone and dedicate 25 minutes to uninterrupted study followed by a 5-minute break. Repeat this three times, and after repetition number four, take a longer 30-minute break.
Focus can be hard to achieve at the best of times, but the more you practice, the more accomplished you’ll get at it. So when the exam nerves take over, get up and take a break from your books. It could be the best move you make all semester. Another great move is making sure that you are covered with both renters and tuition insurance through GradGuard. Take an additional moment to relax and unwind knowing that your personal belongings are protected and your education investment insured. Check out GradGuard’s offers regarding renters and tuition insurance on our website.
About the Author: Robert Craig is a journalist and advertising copywriter who spent three productive years in college, and graduated with a degree in English and film. With the benefit of hindsight, he would have channeled more of the study techniques outlined above.