Student Weekly Tips: Prioritising your health during revision time

It’s that time of year when students all over the country start getting the jitters! With exam season approaching, it’s even more important to keep your mind and body in optimal health. That’s why this week’s tips are all about prioritising your mental and physical health during this stressful time, ensuring you are well supported over this hectic period!

Getting enough sleep

“This is one of the health and wellbeing areas that is often forfeited and neglected by so many (myself included) but prioritising sleep is probably one of the best things you can do. When I have prioritised sleep, my stress levels have significantly reduced, or I am at least able to better respond to stresses more calmly. It has also taught me that doing ‘enough’ is okay and that my sleep is just as, if not more, important than my deadlines. Yes, I might be working later towards a deadline if my creativity is still flowing but, after having done a couple of all-nighters, I do not want to experience that again. In prioritising sleep, I have improved my focus and compassion towards myself significantly and my decision-making is also incredible.” — Rachel, Fashion Management and Marketing

A sleeping tabby cat on a greyish beanbag

“It can be easy to sacrifice sleep during the exam period when you feel like you need to spend as much time as possible revising. However, it is really important to get enough sleep. Having a proper night’s sleep will help you be more motivated and focused the next day, ultimately making your revision more productive. On days when I am revising or working late to finish an assignment, I give myself a cut-off point one hour before I am planning to go to bed, so I can take some time to relax and disconnect from my work before I go to sleep. I might watch something on TV, read a book that’s unrelated to my studies or just sit and talk with my family. I find it beneficial to take this time to destress and it also stops work being the last thing I think about before I go to sleep and the first thing I think about when I wake up!” — Lily, History

Getting into a routine usually helps, not just for revision but also for sleep! There’s some science-backed advice in this regard which you may have read or heard: it’s a good idea to switch off devices or at least avoid looking at screens 2 hours before going to bed. Do something relaxing like reading a book. Our brains pick up on cues very effectively, so having a regular thing before sleeping will prime it to start winding down. It’s like you’re telling it “Right, time to go to bed now”!” — Olivia, Psychology

Caffeine after midday is like a disaster waiting to happen. If you particularly struggle with sleep as I do, I recommend trying to cut out caffeine full stop. In his book ‘Why discussed how caffeination later during the day leads to cycles of sleep deprivation and tiredness. My recommendation: have a caffeine cut-off time. “ — Sara, Biotechnology

Student with head resting on her left elbow on a desk and pen in right hand, on top of notes and books, and next to a laptop and cup of coffee

Eating healthily

Find simple, easy ways to integrate healthy eating into your everyday routine. For example, buy a bunch of bananas and take one with you before going to the library every day as a snack to keep your energy levels up. Some students like to batch-cook to save time. Chuck some of your favourite veggies into a stir fry or curry — healthy cooking doesn’t have to take ages. — Olivia, Psychology

Exercising and staying active

“For me, I will only enjoy exercising if I don’t feel like I’m doing any! That’s why I fell in love with dancing as it never felt too difficult for me. I recommend trying out multiple sports and finding one that genuinely feels fun and not a chore to do. “ — Iqra, Speech and Language Therapy

“Some people struggle with getting active and I completely understand that. Fitness advertising in this day and age can make it seem like you need special gear, a special time and a special place to ‘stay active’ or do some exercise. This can put a lot of people off and it would put me off if that was all that exercise and staying active are about. Luckily, it is a bit different from that. Staying active can mean incorporating movement into your daily life. Before I joined a martial arts club, I would do small things to stay active. Try staying standing instead of taking a seat when you’re in a waiting room or elsewhere. Pace around when you need to think about something — this does not have to be outside or in a park. It can be along a corridor, inside your room or around the block. I know a lecturer who does 10-minute walks in their building whenever they need to think and I think that’s awesome! Other small ways of staying active include changing your position when you are sitting at your desk or posture checking. I learnt to posture check around a year ago. Now, every day, I stop to think: am I growing tall like a tree? That reminds me to roll my shoulders back and extend the crown of my head into the sky. Do this every day and you might find your posture slightly less arched and more moveable.” — Sara, Biotechnology

“It is very important to get your body moving and refreshed, it helps! I started playing tennis this year and I will continue to do so during exam season as it is an escape from the exam stress for me. It helps having an activity because then I feel more refreshed, less tired and it generally helps with my revision.” — Jakub, Physics

A tennis ball on a tennis racket on grass

“I used to be reluctant to take any time day away from my studies as I felt I should be constantly working, which was unhealthy and meant I was almost constantly stressed and burned out. However, particularly since having to work from home for such a long period over lockdown, I have learnt that it is best to listen to your body and when you can feel yourself getting tired or overwhelmed, taking a break is the best thing you can do. I started going for a walk late afternoon each day and then going back to work for a couple of hours afterwards, and I found that not only was my mood improved by getting outdoors but I was also more productive when I returned to work. More recently, I have also started going to the gym more regularly, and whilst I was again initially anxious about taking time away from my work, I have found that I am much more focused and motivated to get back to my studies after I have started my day with a gym session. I also find that planning out my days allows me to ensure that I still get all of my work done alongside taking this time for myself. ” — Lily, History

A gym with a row of treadmills and other gym equipment

What to do if you have an off day or need to take time off due to illness

“Multiple things come under the category of illness. If you live with chronic illness or have been diagnosed with something, I can imagine it is quite different than if you have just the normal cold. When you are ill, take care of yourself. You do not have to do anything. Figure out how to get better, rest, sleep, eat, and repeat. Don’t feel guilty for needing time out and don’t think about what emails you’ll receive when you get back to work. When you’re sick, you’re sick. Treat it like your holy ground. ” — Sara, Biotechnology

“I used to struggle to take time away from my work when I was ill, whether this was mentally or physically, and often tried to power through despite feeling unwell, which often made me feel worse. I now realise that it is best to take some time to look after yourself and recover, and if you do this, you will most likely get back to feeling like yourself much more quickly. Taking a day or a few days away from your studies will not have an impact in the long run, but making yourself increasingly ill will, so it is important to always prioritise your health!” — Lily, History

“Illness isn’t always physical, feeling low mentally can also really impact your ability to be productive. If you want to produce high-quality work, you must always prioritise your mental health and ensure you feel capable of completing your work. If an off-day does develop into something more long-lasting, I recommend reaching out to an academic advisor, lecturer or any member of staff at the University, everyone is here to help to make sure you don’t feel alone in this!” — Iqra, Speech and Language Therapy

Thanks for reading this week’s tips! We hope you’ve picked up a few things that you can try or apply. If nothing else, just know that you’re never alone and that there are always people who are going through similar feelings and also people who want to support you. Good luck with your forthcoming exams and assignments!

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