Product Focus - Study Smart
Exam season is always stressful. And it’s been made doubly stressful by the uncertainty of the past few years. The additional pressure to excel – from parents, peers, teachers, universities, society at large, and even yourself – only serves to magnify the overwhelm, especially when you’ve been told so much of your future rides on these assessments.
If you already struggle with your mental health – as many young people do, especially now – trawling through revision, past papers and long exam days can feel even more arduous and emotionally taxing.
Rest assured, you certainly aren’t alone in feeling apprehensive. That knot-in-your-stomach is a perfectly normal response to the ‘fear of the unknown’ exams often usher in. And there’s no doubt that students up and down the country are also battling similar concerns and fears.
The good news is that a small dose of pre-exam jitters can actually be a motivational push and may even help you perform well. And there are plenty of ways you can bring your study stress down to a manageable level so that you’re operating in your ‘stretch zone’, not your ‘panic zone’.
Of course, studying for your exams doesn’t just mean swatting up on French past participles or complicated Maths algebra; it also means looking after your emotional and physical health. Taking a 360-degree approach to your wellbeing will facilitate your success in the exam hall.
Remember, these exams don’t define you. You can only do your best. And, if you’ve put in the hours, that’s all that matters.
Eat for exams
Sure, you can arm yourself with sticky notes, revision cards, past papers and rigorous timetables, but if you don’t feed your brain correctly, you will be hard-pressed to absorb all of that critical information. With that in mind, be sure to pack plenty of brain-loving fuel into your diet as you revise.
Breakfast like a king
Good morning, sunshine! A hearty breakfast fuels your brain and body for a fruitful day of revision, so make every effort to prioritise it. If you can’t stomach food first-thing – or anxiety has zapped your appetite – why not fix yourself a healthy smoothie instead? Sometimes the act of drinking is easier than eating.
Pack in the protein
Protein doesn’t only give you ‘gains’; it gives you ‘brains’! This essential macronutrient satiates the body, keeping you full and energised as you tackle those long stretches of revision. Try incorporating a quality animal or plant protein source at every meal. Think meat, fish, dairy, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds.
Go for slow-releasing grains
Slow-releasing whole grains, like jumbo porridge oats, brown rice, whole grain bread, quinoa and buckwheat, stave off hunger like no other food group. To keep your energy levels balanced as you hit the daily grind, consider including a portion of slow-releasing grains at each meal.
When hunger hits, try swapping your sugary snacks with these nutritional nuggets, poised to power you through revision:
- Two dates with peanut butter
- A handful of raw cashew nuts
- A few squares of dark chocolate
- Celery and hummus
- Chopped apple with almond butter
- Two to three dried apricots
- A handful of trail mix
- Roasted chickpeas
- Avocado on wholegrain toast
Shake off study stress
Although there are a rare few who could nail an exam paper in their sleep, heart palpitations, sweaty palms and contorted guts are part of the territory for most people. But while small amounts of stress may help your exam performance, teetering into full-blown panic can be a hindrance. Thankfully, there are many ways to shake off study stress when it strikes.
Take plenty of breaks
NEWSFLASH: you don’t need to work all day, every day during exam season. Taking regular breaks facilitates learning, supports productivity, and – most importantly of all – prevents burnout. You may wish to use the Pomodoro Technique as you revise: work solidly on a task for 25 minutes, then take a 5 minute break. Once you’ve completed four blocks, you get to indulge in a longer 20 minute break.
Start revising early
Having two months to prepare for an exam is much better than two weeks, right? Being organised during exam seasons pays dividends. Break down your revision into small, bite-sized chunks and then work out what you need to prioritise. Set yourself realistic goals and create a manageable timetable.
Comparison is the thief of joy
Although study buddies may be helpful, try not to compare fellow students’ revision to your own. Listening to other people reel off how much they’ve learnt might only serve to stress you out. Think carefully about how much you bring up the subject of revision and exams in social situations. And if you do want to revise with another student, choose wisely. Avoid individuals who will stress you out.
Quick routes off the anxiety cycle
Anxiety often operates in a cycle that can, at times, feel impossible to break. Next time you experience the onset of revision-panic, try one of these quick releases to get off the hamster wheel of worry.
- Have a hot bath or cold shower
- Watch a funny video and roar with laughter
- Shake your body vigorously for 1 minute
- Practise 2 minutes of deep belly breathing
- Get up and dance
- Call a good friend
- Write all your worries down
- Try 5 minutes of meditation
- Have a good cry
- Do some yoga
- Spend time with a pet
- Read a book
- Spend time in nature
Here are our top supplement suggestions to support your study smarts
 BBC News - Sean Coughlan Education correspondent, 4 May 2017