How to battle your exam anxiety with brain food and a bit of fitness…
It’s normal to experience increased anxiety during stressful periods of your life. If you’re panicking over your assessments just know that it’s very common, a lot of your peers are feeling exactly the same as you, even those that don’t usually suffer from anxiety. There are ways you can keep this to a minimum, and the most effective way helps you keep a clear mind and healthy body…
Students stereotypically struggle with lifestyle issues.
Little rest, poor nutrition, too many stimulants, (aka too many Vodka Redbull), not enough exercise, poor time scheduling skills, and struggling to prioritise work and play go hand in hand with student life. The large majority of the student population can relate to this stereotype, which is what makes it hard for you to find that initial motivation to shift out of the ‘lazy student’ gear. But, once you get into a pattern like this…
Waking up, eating a nutritious breakfast, walking to the library, munching on some healthy snacks, heading to the gym or for a run, making a wholesome, veg-filled dinner
…your body will start to respond, you’ll feel the benefits of a healthier lifestyle and you’ll start to crave days in bed and sugary junk foods a little bit less.
We’re be stating the obvious here, but your brain needs nutrients just like your heart, muscles and lungs do! Eating well is beneficial for both your physical and mental health. Junk food someones typical library snack makes us feel like junk (hence the name). These foods contain too many calories and too little nutrition for us to remain in tip-top shape, body and mind. For you to reach your full potential – especially academically – it’s important to be working with a balanced diet, a little bit of exercise and a clear mind.
The food you need to be eating for ultimate brain power…
Do it for the grains. Low-GI carbohydrates – such as whole grains – slowly pump glucose into your bloodstream throughout the day. This keeps your body energised and your brain alert so you’re ready for a full day of productive revision. And the good news; you can eat as much sweet potato as you want! So get munching on your whole grains for breakfast for a steady build up of energy in the morning.
When you’re prepping study snacks, combine low-GI carbs with a lean source of protein. That could be eggs, chicken, soy foods, or a handful of nuts and seeds. Oily fish and tuna are two other hits in the ‘brain food’ category, although perhaps ones to avoid taking into the library… Don’t be that person.
You’d be surprised at the amount of calories you burn whilst you’re studying, so keep your diet rich in nutrients with lots of brightly coloured vegetables. Avocados seem to be everyones best friend!
Swap your bag of sweet rewards for a bag of fruit – equally as sweet and ten times as good for you! These natural sugars are low-cal, delicious and energising. Think, apples, bananas and blueberries, and if this isn’t your cuppa T ☕️ then remember that peanut butter contains HEALTHY fats and protein… so spread a bit of that over some crackers and get your head down. For those of you who still crave that sugary taste, grab some ‘sweet’ popcorn from your local shop and munch away. Popcorn is high in fibre and low in carbs with a low energy density, basically, popcorn contains far fewer calories than a lot of your favourite snack foods!
And, that little bit of fitness.
We’re not suggesting that you need to put the effort in that’s equivalent to those training for marathons… but, you’re essentially training yourself for a month long marathon of exams, assignments and diligent note taking. Most students feel like every waking hour needs to be spent revising or getting enough sleep for a productive day, so any chance of regular exercise goes straight out of the window.
When you exercise you release various hormones and chemical compounds into your body. These essentially improve your cognitive function and ability to focus, so you can revise to a better quality – you’re more than likely going to hit those high grades! The stress hormone – cortisol – significantly reduces if you exercise… spend some time eating healthier and getting in some exercise, and spend less time worrying.
How do you fit this into your schedule?
We know that exercise has a lot of benefits during exam time, but it’s still hard to fit in around a busy schedule. Keep yourself flexible, find out what works for you throughout the day, maybe keep your gym kit with you when you go to the library – that way you can head out whenever you fancy. Take regular breaks, and if you think you don’t have time for them then make time. Walk around campus and stretch your legs as you’ll feel the benefits of the fresh air. Make your lunches the night before and (when possible) cook your dinner in bulk so you can freeze the rest, or use it over the rest of the week.