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By Mae Mastin, Joliet West

Joliet West students are preparing for final exams, and while everyone is excited for winter break, the stress of the end of the semester is increasing. Here are some ways to prepare (and de-stress) in the next few days.

1. Sleep—really. Make sure you get enough rest!

Sleep is super important. You probably hear it a lot, but it’s even more crucial that you get enough rest at this time, when you want your memory and alertness in the best shape that they could possibly be. Shaniese Alston at The State University of New York blog in “Scientifically, The Best Ways To Prepare For Final Exams”says that “Based on a 2008 study by Pamela Thacher, Associate Professor of Psychology at St. Lawrence University, all-nighters impair reasoning and memory for as long as four days.” To reiterate this point, consider this: according to “Sleep, Performance, and Public Safety,” and article from Healthy Sleep, stemming from the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, “Concentration, working memory, mathematical capacity, and logical reasoning are all aspects of cognitive function compromised by sleep deprivation.” These are exactly the abilities that you’re going to need to access on a final: getting enough sleep is literally one of the most important things that you can do.

2. Come up with a meal plan for exam week.

Time’s Brian Witte, in an article called “6 Tips for Surviving Finals Week,” suggests eating foods that “are digested slowly: whole grains, fresh vegetables, and lean proteins.” Before a test, he suggests, eat protein, not carbs (and don’t test hungry). Alston also discusses the importance of paying attention to your diet if you want a high score, stating, “When 16 college students were tested on attention and thinking speed, then fed a five-day high-fat, low-carb diet heavy on meat, eggs, cheese and cream and tested again, their performance declined. The students who ate a balanced diet that included fruit and vegetables, however, held steady, says Cameron Holloway, a senior clinical researcher at the University of Oxford.” She suggests taking short breaks and eating snacks while studying to let your brain replenish glucose.   

3. Exercise!

When you’re studying, you might not feel like you have time to do anything else, but, according to Witte, “Exercise boosts blood flow to the brain, and sitting in one place for an extended period of time can lead to a tired, ill-supplied mind. You may not be able to squeeze in a full workout during finals week, but you do have time to go for a short walk or to do two sets of crunches or push-ups.” Alston suggests going even further, stating, “Science says that just 20 minutes of cardio can improve your memory.” Whatever you have time for, using your study break time to be active is a good idea.

4. Stay focused

Keep in mind that this is probably going to be the most academically-challenging time you’ll have to go through for at least a little while. Get a much work done as you can. Try not to stress, but also don’t procrastinate; just get through it! When you feel like giving up, just think about how happy you’ll be when you’ve done well on your finals and you can relax. In addition, try to limit your distractions: work in a quiet place, turn off your phone, and identify anything else that might prevent you from getting work done. Alston suggests listening to instrumental music only or turning it off entirely, and Witte suggests using social media as a reward for implementing good studying habits.

Do you have any tips for final exam takers? Please comment! And to everyone taking exams soon—good luck!!  

(Click here for my post on finals from last December.)  

(Click here for part 1 of this article.)

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