With finals coming up, students may sacrifice their well-being in hopes of getting better grades. Ideally, they would try to prevent an end-of-semester avalanche by planning ahead, but sometimes work piles up for even the most deliberate student.
Your encouragement to practice good self-care, especially during stressful times like finals, can help build your student’s life-long resilience skills. Here are talking points that you could use for a conversation.
College students are notorious for sacrificing sleep, but getting enough sleep can contribute to:
- Higher GPA (see also Successful Students Tend to Sleep More)
- More effective studying
- Less stress, anxiety and depression
- Reduced chance of getting a cold or the flu
- Less urge to overeat
The best bet is to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night. If short on sleep, students may want to nap during the day, and when done right, naps can boost energy and increase alertness. Research says that 10-20 minute naps are most beneficial in reducing sleepiness and improving cognitive performance. Naps longer than 20-30 minutes may actually increase grogginess and disrupt night sleep. So stick to a short nap, or go to bed early.
Some students use stimulant drugs like Adderall and Ritalin for focus. When taken without a prescription or in high doses, these medications can contribute to feelings of anxiety and paranoia, irregular heartbeat and sometimes seizure. And studies have found that students who rely on these types of drugs for non-medical uses actually have poorer academic performance and lower GPAs.
There are plenty of healthier (and cheaper) ways to enhance mental endurance and focus:
- Set short, attainable work goals and write them down!
- Reduce or filter out unnecessary distractions—turn off the phone, close Facebook, etc.
- Take a 5-10 minute mental break now and then with music, Youtube videos, visiting a friend, etc.
Rethink Your Drink
Staying hydrated can help combat fatigue, plus help avoid headaches and mindless eating. Beverages such as water, juice, sports drinks, and even soda (though it may otherwise lack nutrition) help rehydrate.
Caffeine in moderate doses can help students feel more alert and less sleepy, but too much caffeine may lead to sleep deprivation and a tendency to disregard the normal warning signals of fatigue. Too much caffeine may also lead to dehydration and anxiety-related feelings such as excessive nervousness, sweating and tremors.
Remember to Move
Inactivity for a prolonged period of time can reduce the effectiveness of studying and lead to muscle fatigue, discomfort, loss of sensation, and tingling. Whether it’s a quick stretch, a short walk, or an entire Zumba class, moving around can get blood pumping, muscles moving, and minds re-engaged.
What to Eat
Before reaching for a sugary snack, opt for fresh fruits or veggies, protein-rich foods such as yogurt or crackers and cheese, or a nutritious sandwich. “Brain foods” including cranberries, egg yolks, and foods with omega-3 fatty acids like walnuts can help enhance concentration and memory.
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