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Green+Aquamarine: Wellness | Surviving Exam Season

Thursday, 12 May 2016

Wellness | Surviving Exam Season

May is here, which can mean only one thing for anyone in eduction... exam season! Although summer is just around the corner, with hopefully lots of exciting plans and projects, the run up is one of the most stressful times of the academic year. With a year or more's work culminating into a few exam hall sessions, it can feel like everything bar revision and the occasional Netflix binge goes out the window, leaving you feeling overwhelmed. As such, I'm sharing some of my top tips to help you stay balanced and (relatively!) relaxed throughout the exam season, whilst still getting a little exercise and socialising in!

Set realistic work guidelines...
You know yourself better than anyone. Be disciplined and start your revision punctually each day, and have a game plan on what you want to work on. Whilst I never got on with revision timetables -too rigid, too much switching between subjects -I like to have an idea in my head of what I want to work on over the week ahead, usually broken into AM and PM slots. Factor in workouts, errands, cooking times and of course socialising into your day to stagger breaks over several hours.

...but do be flexible
You may have scheduled a lunchtime gym session in, but if you're still on a roll at 11:45, don't break a productive revision stint. By the same token, if things start to stagnate before the end of a work slot, take a break for a few minutes, or even call it quits for an hour or two before starting renewed. We can't always predict how our brains or work ethics will pan out each day, and that's completely okay.

Have some quiet time daily
Obviously I will always have to throw yoga in at some point. Prioritise making a few minutes upon waking or before bed to focus on breathing and relaxing. This can be with a light yoga flow, pranayama breathing, meditation, but equally curling up with a book will all work wonders. You're giving yourself a screen-free way to escape the outside world

Make time to sweat
Whilst you want to make your time at the desk as efficient as possible, long stints working aren't always the best tactic. A quick Google will offer lots of supported evidence that exercise can increase productivity (see my post all about how yoga can boost productivity here). However, if you really are short on time, plan a HIIT workout. The simplest way to do this is to sprint for 40 seconds and jog or walk for 20 seconds, and do this for 10-15 minutes. However, my favourite full-body session looks something like this -

  • 5 minute warm up such as running or skipping. Then repeat the following five times:
  • 10 burpees
  • 10 goblet (wide legged) squats
  • 10 split lunges with back leg on a bench (right side)
  • 10 split lunges with back leg on a bench (left side)
  • 10 press ups / press up claps
  • 10 tricep dips, against a bench
  • Finish with a 10 minute interval run or ab work, followed by stretching.

Get enough sleep!
Whilst now is not the time to lie in until midday or take lots of naps, pulling all nighters on a regular basis is not the way forward either. A few of my friends do and get even more stressed, and I don't know how they can do it long term. Although you may find yourself working later, overwork and lack of sleep can seriously undermine your health and decrease your exam success because you're simply too tired to absorb any more information. It doesn't work for everyone as we all have different sleep patterns, but I'd much prefer to go to sleep an hour or two early, and get up that bit sooner and hit the ground running.

Exams are a bit of a practice for dealing with deadlines and taking on new information, so get to grips with these tips and utilise them whenever things get busy or stress mounts up.

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