Six Ways to Stay Sane as You Study
January is here, and for many, that means so are exams. Exams are stressful no matter what, and in our culture of overwork, they can feel monumental with everything they represent or pretend to represent. The internet is filled with strategies to get the most done in the shortest amount of time, or to make your notes pretty, but having gone through the baccalaureate and then having spent seven years dealing with exams at university (always successfully! save for one set of economics exams in a semester no one need remember), I know that study techniques are as varied as there are people studying. They’re something you need to figure out through trial and error. There are, however, six things I’ve learned are non-negotiable when it comes to studying and keeping your sanity while doing so:
Sleep. All-nighters are not a badge of honour. You aren’t actually going to remember more by staying up late at night, but your quality of work is going to go down. Go to sleep when you feel that you need to, and do your best to get a full night’s sleep (or as much of one as you can). Nap! (Even look up coffee naps!) Your mind will be sharper and you’ll have more energy to either keep studying the next day, to write, or to actually sit that exam.
Eat. Eat three, well-balanced meals a day. A fed body will allow your organs and yes, your brain, to function better, which means you’ll learn more. Have snacks when you need to, and ideally have snacks that don’t just consist of sugar.
Take Breaks. Be as disciplined as you need with your studying, but be fair. Take regular breaks. Stand up from your desk, stretch, shake out your body and your muscles (an important reminder from Raquel!), walk around the room. Do this for five minutes every half hour if you need to. Multiple short study sessions will always be better than massively long chunks of studying. Take this further and take days off. If you’re an academic and are reading this because you feel like your life consists of constantly studying even if you don’t sit exams anymore, then take evenings and weekends off. All a 24/7 attitude does is perpetuate the toxic belief that people need to constantly be working.
Socialize. I know people who like to hibernate while they’re studying, and sure, they may feel the need to do so and it can be effective in short bursts, but humans are social beings and, no matter how introverted you may be, not speaking to anyone for days on end is not a good thing. People need to interact with others to stay sane, whether that consists of walking (and talking to) your dog or calling your mom or talking to your friends online or even doing the old-fashioned thing and meeting up with people for a pint or a coffee after getting out of the library. Do yourself a favor and do at least one of those things.
Get fresh air. Yikes, I know. But fresh air is good for you and your thoughts! Open your window regularly, walk around the block, pick up your takeaway dinner rather than have it delivered. Do something that gets fresh air into your lungs and even gets you a little Vitamin D (but wear SPF).
Reward Yourself & Acknowledge Your Work. The best way to find the will to keep going with your work is to acknowledge what you’ve done. Instead of panicking about everything you still have to cover at the end of a study day, think back to what you have learned and acknowledge your efforts. You’re doing well. Then take a little time to do something that you want to do, whether it’s to watch something you’ve been waiting to watch all day on Netflix or to go out with your friends or to take a nice long bath with a box of chocolates.
Let’s make 2019 the year where taking care of yourself while studying is the cool thing to do instead of running yourself haggard.