Preparing for a test usually sends students into an anxious flurry. It’s quite common to hear of sleepless nights, irritation, and even meals missed because of the need to cram-study before a test. Unfortunately, none of these things are healthy and they can all combine to create anxiety, which can compromise your test results.
Here are some tips that everyone should incorporate into their study routine. They’ll ensure that you can get a good night’s sleep and that you’ll be able to sit through your test without a huge amount of worry.
1. Get a proper amount of sleep
This is number one! It’s also the number one thing that most university students seem to forget about in the midst of studying for a test. It’s common to see students borrowing ADD medication from friends to give them an extra boost to study through the night.
Aside from paving the way for addiction, this is a bad idea – drugs or no drugs. Sleep is the period during which your brain rests and restores itself. If you don’t get any sleep the day before your test, then you won’t be well-rested when the test comes around. This means that you’ll be foggy-headed and won’t be able to recall information properly.
Studies have shown that people remember things best if they study them first and then sleep on it. This means that even if you do manage to stay up all night studying, chances are you’d have remembered a similar amount if you’d just studied less and slept a bit more.
It might sound strange to suggest that someone meditates when they’re already stressed about studying for a test. That’s the point, though! If you meditate a little bit (the morning is the best time to meditate, as the effects linger throughout the day) then you’ll be able to clear your mind of stress and organize your tasks and study blocks better.
There are many ways to meditate. For studying, I recommend:
- Breathing/relaxation techniques. These can be done anywhere, at any time – even on the way to the library where you might be heading to study! The simplest way to do a breathing exercise is to count your breaths. Inhale deeply to the count of one (making sure you start your inhale in your stomach and feel it rise into your chest) and exhale, slowly, to a count of two.
- Doing this for a solid half-hour in the morning provides you with immense benefits. You’ll find yourself in a lucid, motivated, and content state of mind that can last for the rest of the day.
- If you find that the effects start to dwindle, you can meditate again at lunchtime and in the evening. I’d recommend that you do so regardless.
- You can also do short breathing exercises during study. When the work starts to overwhelm you, take a minute-long break and count your breaths.
3. Eat a healthy diet
It’s vitally important that you get a proper diet, not only during study time but throughout the whole school year. It seems quite obvious, but a lot of people neglect their diet when they’re busy with school.
Our bodies and our brains both need a wide range of nutrients to function properly. Without these, we’ll be unable to perform at our best. While starting to eat a healthy diet the week before a test will show minimal improvement, you may notice a significant improvement in your grades next year if you start eating healthily now.
A healthy diet is also associated with lower levels of anxiety and depression. These two things can combat your ability to perform properly in a test, so it’s a good idea to knock them out before they become a problem.
Nutrients that are particularly important for brain health include:
- Omega-3 fats, sourced directly from food instead of supplements. The balance of omega-3 fats is almost as important as whether or not you consume them, and a lot of supplements throw this balance out of whack. Since your brain is largely made of fat, you need to consume healthy fats for it to work.
- The B-complex vitamins all have an effect on energy metabolism and improve the rate at which your brain can send messages. Choline – sometimes known as vitamin B4 – needs the other B vitamins in order to function and be produced. Acetylcholine is the main “thinking” neurotransmitter, and you need lots of choline to make it.
4. Take some time to socialize
Socializing is key for a healthy mind. A lot of people shy away from social situations during the weeks before a test, often getting their only social interaction at school or work. While it might seem practical to do this, not socializing has a terrible impact on your well-being.
Consider the fact that solitary confinement is the worst punishment you can give someone in prison – even when the people they’re surrounded by are crazy murderers! That alone says something about the need for human interaction, and sacrificing human contact to study more might have a counter-effect.
When you’re isolated from other humans you can become depressed and stressed out. These two states of mind are detrimental to your ability to study, and you might find that if you take a couple hours of your study time to laugh and catch up, you’ll be much better able to finish your studies efficiently.
Studying is important, yes, but it’s not the only important thing for getting good test results. You need to make sure your brain is in tip-top shape, and doing that requires a lot of care and maintenance.
There are a lot of things you can do to strengthen your mind, and fortunately many of them are quite easy. What they require is not so much effort, but time, and spending time on things besides studying might seem counterintuitive if you want to get good results. This isn’t the case, though.
Hopefully these tips will provide you with a framework that you can use to achieve your best results on your next test!