Self-care for students

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Take care of yourself as well as your grades

By Rebecca Peterson, Staff Writer

It’s finally April: the sun is shining, the flowers are blooming, and thanks to global warming, the days have been warmer than ever. To students, this change in the weather can only mean one thing: exams are coming.

School stress can have an enormously destructive effect on the body, causing migraines, insomnia, anxiety, and even heart problems if left unmanaged. Obviously, if one is not sleeping well, feeling well, or pumping blood throughout their body well, they are in no shape to be performing their best on the exams that are causing the stress in the first place. Though it may be hard to see a world beyond exams and final papers, the importance of self-care at this time cannot be understated.

With that in mind, here’s a short list of ways to practice self-care during this busy time.

  1. Get proper sleep

I am, personally, the worst, most hideous hypocrite for even writing this, but it’s true: after a certain amount of time without sleep, your brain starts to function at the same capacity as someone with more than a few shots of vodka in their system. Unless you feel confident performing with half a mickey of liquor on your stomach, you’re going to want to make sure you clock in those eight hours, at least. Studies have also shown that you tend to remember material better after sleeping on it, so it’s better to study what you can in the time you have and set aside the night for sleeping. No coffee, no matter how enormous, can replace the good a night’s sleep will do you.

  1. Eat well

It doesn’t have to be a gourmet, five-course meal; however, when exams are on the mind, an upset stomach due to malnutrition is the last thing you want to deal with. Studying especially can lead to bad food choices—it’s not uncommon for me to demolish an entire family-sized bag of salt and vinegar chips when reviewing notes, for example, and I always regret it afterwards. Keep your study-snacks healthy and light. Different foods can help you accomplish different goals, as well. For example, if you haven’t been sleeping well and need a boost of energy, fruits and proteins are the way to go. If exam stress is keeping you awake, warm soups and heavy breads can send you to sleep quickly so you can get the rest you need to perform well.

  1. Take plenty of breaks

It’s far too easy to get into an “all-or-nothing” attitude when it comes to studying and final papers. Often, however, this leads to procrastination and brain blockages as the tasks ahead begin to seem much more daunting than they really are. By breaking your projects, papers, and studying into easy-to-manage portions, you stand a much better chance of completing your goals. Between these chunks of work, give yourself some time off to recover. Go for a walk, watch an episode of your favourite show, take a nap—whatever you need to do. You’ll feel much better about working if you have a break to look forward to, and you’ll feel much better taking breaks knowing that you’re getting things done.

  1. Keep clean

Another thing that tends to fall by the wayside during the stress of exam season is hygiene. Believe me, no one is judging—we’ve all had weeks where we’ve had to stuff three-day-old hair under a ball cap and mutter “good enough,” before going out to face the world. However, it’s hard to stay motivated when you’re in your pyjamas and surrounded by an ever-growing pile of empty coffee mugs and snack bags. Even taking half an hour to shower and put yourself back together again can give you a whole new perspective to work with for when you get back to studying.

  1. Keep in touch

Isolation helps no one, and most of us need a certain amount of human contact to stay happy, healthy, and sane. Take a few minutes to text a friend, call your parental figure, or even just to hug your cat. Knowing you’re not alone in this can give you the emotional drive you need to survive the next month.

And remember, if you’re ever feeling overwhelmed, Douglas College offers free counseling to students to help deal specifically with school and exam stress. Drink some tea, give yourself a break, and take care of yourself this exam season. You’ll perform better, and feel much better, if you do.