Saturday, October 15, 2011

10 Tips: Midterms Survival Guide

Right now I am smack in the middle of midterms. Earlier this week, I started feeling sick - and quickly bounced right out of it! If I hadn't used these tips below to get better, I wouldn't have been as clear-headed to study for my exams. I'm not a real doctor or anything, but doing these things keeped me healthy! Keep reading for my top ten tips on staying healthy and studying.

Staying Healthy
It is so easy to catch the bug that always seems to be going around this time of year. People are stressed, not sleeping, and getting sick. Try these tips to help avoid getting sick:

1. Get enough sleep: Make sure that you get at least 6-8 hours of sleep a day. I know that sleep is one of the first things to go when there are homework, projects, and studying to do, but not getting enough sleep will make things worse. When you don't get enough sleep (or any at all), you are more likely to be cranky, tired, and less alert the rest of the day. Also, sleep is your only energy source other than food, so when people don't get enough sleep, they tend to overeat...(this explains midnight snacks, which I admit I am a culprit of occassionally!) And lastly, when you sleep your brain memorizes what happened that day - so if you're trying to memorize your study guide, getting sleep will help lock it in your brain for good!

2. Eat well: The day I woke up with a sore throat I immediately made a fruit smoothie for breakfast rather than my usual eggs or cereal. Not only did the smoothie soothe my throat, but it provided so many healthy nutrients from the fruit. Eating lean protein and lots of fruits and veggies will help build the immune system to fight any infection. A friend also told me that her nutritionist said that for every 25 grams of sugar, your immune system is lowered 25%. So steering clear from foods with processed sugar will definitely help fight off infection as well!

3. Vitamins: I take a multivitamin every morning to get the nutrients that I sometimes don't always eat in food. I admit, there are definitely days where I realized I've eaten fruit but no veggies so taking supplements are a great way to get well-rounded nutrients! I don't recommend replacing actual food with supplements, but they're a nice little extra when you don't get in all the nutrients your body needs for the day.

4. Exercise: Whether it is getting in some time at the gym, participating in an intramural game, or taking a walk with a friend (or significant other!), exercise is really important for staying healthy. Not only does regular exercise help prevent diseases and other illness down the road, but it also can help knock out an incoming cold, or even keep it at bay to begin with! I've read that as long as you don't have a fever or are throwing up, then your body can handle light exercise if you're feeling under-the-weather. Exercise also gets the blood circulating and provides a fantastic amount of natural energy without a caffeine crash from that sugar-free Red Bull.

5. Take a break! When life gets busy, it can be easy to just skip time to relax. Everyone needs a break here and there, even if you have to schedule it! If you're studying for hours, take 30 minutes to catch up on an episode on Hulu, take a lunch break with a friend, or paint your nails. Making time to let yourself relax, laugh, chat, sleep, or read can help you de-stress - or not even get stressed in the first place!

I feel like midterms are almost harder than finals in some cases because there is no prep week. At my university, we get one week before finals where nothing worth more than 10% of our grade is due - so all the big papers, projects, etc. are done before and we get to use prep week for more time to prepare for final exams. But midterms don't get a prep week. Even though we've only learned half of a course, other big papers, projects, etc. are still due and club meetings and sports practices are still held. So in a sense midterms can get really draining. Prepping well can help you avoid the drain:

1. Get organized: Use a calendar or a planner to write down everything you need to do for class. Read chapters 4-6? Write it down. Paper due Thursday? Write it down. Study group Monday at 2:30? Write it down. That really simple half-page write up? Write it down...even the easy, little stuff is easy to forget! Go through the syllabus for every class and make sure that you are on schedule and aren't forgetting anything. With everything written down, you won't forget about anything!

2. Make a list: of everything. Use either one piece of paper/sticky note/journal for everything, or make separate lists for different categories - whatever works best. From writing down what groceries to pick up next, to emailing your professor, to sports practice/intramural games, to taking your laundry out of the dryer, you'll make sure that you won't forget a thing. Keeping the list(s) in a convenient, visible location where you'll see them daily will be a nice reminder in case you (almost) forget to do something.

3. Choose your best study method: Figure out how you understand/memorize/focus on things the best. Getting together in a group to study is a good way to pick up on, clarify, or learn more about concepts because there are other people to talk it over with. Explaining a concept in depth to someone else will make it easier to explain it on the test, since you've already done it before. Flashcards and color-coded study guides also work for many people. Practice quizzes and review questions in textbooks are another good way to practice.

4. Find a place to study: I know people that study best with the TV on, music loud, and lots of people around. Though I learned in my Consumer Behavior class that your memory associates what you learn with your learning environment. So if you're sitting in class at a desk or table in class with no music on or people talking, then it's usually best to study at a desk or table with no music on or people talking. Going over the material in a similar environment will set off subconscious associative cues from the environment. In the end, though, as long as you can find somewhere that lets you focus and put your full attention toward studying, then you should be fine. The library, study lounges, and coffee shops are good places to try if you can't seem to focus in your own room.

5. Ask for help if you need it: Professors are always there to help. I remember freshman year when I was too nervous and intimidated to go into office hours and didn't fully understand my first college essay - I ended up not getting a good grade or feedback. When I went into office hours for the second essay, I ended up getting an A. If you need help, do not be afraid to ask! Professors have office hours for a reason, and that is solely for helping you. Friends and classmates are also great resources to turn too as well. Your classmates are learning the material at the same time, and your friends may have taken the class previously or can provide a fresh perspective on a subject.

Phew! That was a lot of tips. I hope they help! If you have any more tips on studying or staying healthy, feel free to share them with a comment!


1 comment:

  1. Ian Mulligan here thought I would put my “2 cents” in.
    I find with the staying healthy section you can combine a lot of the tips. Sleep and taking a break can be a simply 20 minute nap, but some people have trouble doing it. Just closing your eyes for twenty minutes and collecting your thoughts can be therapeutic.
    I really agree on sugar – finding those natural sugars is essential. Blueberries and raspberry smoothies in the morning with some protein are delicious. Also get some light carbohydrates as carbs stimulate brain activity – therefore, try and hit a little bit of each food group in the morning. If you can get to the gym in the morning and have a light 30-45 minute workout it can kick start your daily routine. A morning endorphin rush followed by a healthy breakfast is amazing. The multivitamin is absolutely essential if you are running short on time, because as you infer most college students do not get the right nutrients.
    This all plays into exercise as well, so many people are worried about losing weight and looking good for someone else. I would first say you should go to the gym for yourself and no-one else at the end of the day. Although it always helps when you a friend or “significant other” tells you that you are looking fit. (He or she looks pretty fit: totally an Irish and British thing to say.) Building up that confidence helps a lot and it carries over into other aspects of life.
    Back to working out, you can do a light workout when feeling slightly under the weather. You do not want to go to the gym and push yourself to hard only to worsen your condition. My biggest issue with the Gonzaga gym is that I do not think people actually know how to work out properly. As a result I believe most individuals hamper the gains they could and should be making. I have seen countless people doing the same thing day after day, week after week, and this does not work. Fitness is tricky and you never want to offend someone in the gym.
    Stress management is key and I think if you follow the steps you talk about then you will find success in managing it and avoiding getting sick.
    Probably have had enough of a random person commenting, but I have enjoyed your blog. It has a different flavor to it – thumbs up. I might have committed a faux pas by saying “you” but it is not specifically directed at you by any means.