They’re here before we know it; midterms are upon us. For many students, this means prioritizing studying over healthy habits. But exams don’t have to make us set our health aside. There are healthy habits that everyone can pick that not only contribute to overall health but may also improve your brain power while studying. I think I speak for most of us when I say I would like my brain to be working as efficiently as possible when I’m hitting the books. These tips are twofold: they contribute to your health and could help improve your cognition.
Tip #1: Stay hydrated!
This isn’t the first time and probably won’t be the last that you hear about the importance of hydration. Water not only helps our muscles function but is essential for proper brain function and cognition. Without proper hydration, your mental focus will decline and you won’t be able to use your brain to its full capacity. You can do everything else right, and dehydration can bring your whole study game down. Keep a water bottle with you at all times and make sure it’s within arm’s reach when studying; this will make it more likely you’ll take a swig. If you need more motivation, there are also google chrome extensions that can remind you to drink water at certain intervals.
Tip #2: Eat Small snacks throughout the day to keep you satisfied and alert.
The worst thing is when you have the will to study, but you decide to eat a heavy meal and the next thing you know you want to take a nap. Try and avoid large heavy meals like oily take-out; these foods require a lot of energy to be diverted to your digestive system and may put you into that ‘food coma’ state. If you do find yourself still with a large box of Thai food in front of you, try and eat it slowly or split it into smaller meals. Breaking up meals can help prevent overindulgence or ‘mindless eating’ where you may be full, but you keep eating just because food is in front of you.
Tip #3: Choose tea over coffee
If you have an option to choose between tea and coffee during a study session, tea beats out coffee in its ability to give you a more sustained alertness without the crash. Plus, tea contains antioxidants that fight a plethora of different types of cancer. Even further, tea may actually calm you down; an even better reason to drink some tea during midterm season. If you’re feeling anxious, it may be time to brew.
Tip #4: Move your body
For many of us, the gym gets pushed lower on the priority list when our schedules start filling up. You could be missing out on more than you think when you stay sedentary. Exercise is actually good for your brain and cognition. Plus, you don’t have to hit the treadmill for hours to see the benefits, light aerobic exercise (30-40 minutes) will improve cognition, help your immune system and release endorphins that make you feel good; who doesn’t want that? If you’re not a gym-goer there are still plenty of activities that are beneficial: hiking, playing Frisbee on the glade, dancing, and yoga just to name a few.
Tip# 5: Try meditating
Mediating can alleviate stress and anxiety, and again improve cognition and concentration. Studies have also shown that meditation can improve your memory, which I imagine would help many on exam day. Meditating may seem like a mystery to individuals who have never tried it, but it thankfully there are many different types of meditation so everyone can get a little zen; there’s even a meditation DeCal if you really want to get into a practice.
Go ahead and try out a couple of these tips and see how they improve your study sessions. If you are dealing with severe anxiety and stress there are resources such as health coaches and therapists at the Tang Center that you can use at any time. Happy studying!