Work smarter, not harder

Looking for that secret weapon for finals week? Professionals suggest oatmeal … and sleep.

by Jessica Perez, Contributor to the Star

Finals can be an overwhelming time for students, with 88 percent failing to get the recommended eight hours of sleep. Luckily, it’s science to the rescue! Clinical researchers and psych professionals say minding your health is key to avoiding anxiety and acing your exams.

During finals week, students prepare for long nights in the library with heavy doses of caffeine and frequent trips to the vending machine. Though junk food is a temptation, the best way to prepare your mind is to eat for energy with superfoods and antioxidants. Research suggests that fiber-rich and low-digesting foods such as oatmeal are best, but what you eat a week in advance matters, too.

Cameron Holloway, a senior clinical researcher at the University of Oxford, tested 16 college students on attention and thinking speed: “They were fed a low-carb diet heavy on meat, eggs, and cream cheese; their performance declined. The students who ate a balanced diet that included fruits and vegetables, however, held steady scores.

“Take a five-minute break every hour to let your body produce more fuel for your studying. Eating a healthy snack is very beneficial, such as almonds, fruits, and yogurt.”

Say no to cramming and don’t save all your studying until finals week. Study in 20-50 minute increments by distributing learning over time, which benefits long-term retention.

Say yes to cardio. Science says that just 20 minutes of cardio can improve your memory. Whether you’re dancing, jogging, or breaking a sweat by walking, exercise will increase your energy level and reduce the effects of both mental and physical stress.

While studying long periods of time, self-care is an important factor.

Students should work in things they enjoy, such as watching a certain TV show, spending time with family or eating at a particular restaurant. Taking 30-minute breaks and including activities that make an individual feel good can help with managing stress.

Robbie Rhodes, a staff member at Psychological Services at Valley College, said that nothing is wrong with the intake of caffeine for a boost, but relying on caffeine as a performance-enhancing drug and drinking it constantly throughout the day can interfere with sleep.

Students are better off studying five fewer hours and getting more sleep because all-nighters can wear the brain out.

“It’s harder to access the information when your brain is exhausted, when you’re fatigued and your mind is unclear,” said Rhodes. “Your brain consolidates information when you sleep, so I always recommend to students to prioritize sleep over extra studying.”

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