Healthy and unhealthy finals habits

With final exams at the end of this week, the Knight Errant offers up some tips for healthy eating, studying, and sleeping habits as well as some things to avoid.

Natalie Chevalier, Staff Writer

With semester finals around the corner, the stress of studying can build up, and it is easy to fall into bad habits while preparing for those big tests. Even with all the reviewing and memorizing, students often forget about something just as valuable and beneficial as studying: taking care of yourself. Procrastination, distractions, all-nighters, and eating the wrong foods won’t benefit you in the end while trying to ace your exams. However, getting enough sleep, managing your time well, eating certain super-foods, and simply just taking care of your body the right way can make studying that much easier and help you score big on those finals.

HEALTHY – 

Blueberries: For long-term memory, these yummy berries are proven to improve your learning capacity and motor skills. Packed with brain-boosting antioxidants, blueberries are a sweet, healthy treat to help you study and soak up information. “Blueberries are good for retention and recall. As you’re reading about chemistry or theology, they help you store the information in your brain and help you pull it back out of your brain when you need to put in on a piece of paper for a test,” theology teacher Mr. Zachary Zeckser said.

Sleep: Did you know teenagers are advised to sleep at least eight to nine hours every night? Pulling an all-nighter will not get you through an exam. Don’t be fooled, the amount of sleep you get is just as valuable as the amount of studying you do. A lack of sleep decreases your ability to pay attention and retain information, so try to create regular sleep and study habits to ace those tests.

Nuts and Seeds: Nuts are rich in vitamins, fatty acids, amino acids, and antioxidants. Munching on the nutty family of almonds, peanuts, cashews, hazelnuts, walnuts, and pecans bring big advantages to your brain and boost your mood as well. Flaxseeds are also full of Omega-3, an essential fatty acid for memory improvement.

Hydration: Many students rely on caffeine to get them through the day, but often forget how important it is to drink water. “I also recommend hydrating really well, and I don’t recommend it for just the day of finals, I recommend this for weeks [leading up to the test] or the whole semester,” Mr. Zeckser said. Nearly three fourths of the brain is made up of water, so remember to keep yourself hydrated to avoid a headache on that math final.

Fish: Cold-water fish are the best source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Studies have shown that consuming fish increases contact between brain cells, heightens memory power, learning ability, problem-solving skills, and energy. Eating sushi or a healthy grilled fish dinner could give you big benefits for finals week.

Protein for Breakfast: Eating a breakfast full of protein will give you long-lasting energy to make it through the day. “I recommend kids have a high protein breakfast, instead of falling prey to the popular notion that ‘Oh it’s finals day, I’m gonna treat myself to a donut or a frappucino for breakfast!’ cause that’s just going to burn off really fast and you’re going to get tired and distracted,” Mr. Zeckser said.

Organization: Keeping yourself as stress-free as possible is crucial, especially around finals week. “You can’t always plan your stress, but try to avoid stress, because that’ll mess with your brain,” Mr. Zeckser said. Take care of yourself, try to map out a studying plan, a regular sleep habit, and stay as calm and positive as possible.

Taking a Break: A lot of times students think they can buckle down and study for hours, but in reality our brains can only handle so much at a time. “Your brain needs to shift gears, It can’t stay in the same gear the entire time, so study for a solid hour or so and then give your brain a break by doing something entirely different, like going for a jog or chatting with a friend. Also, don’t pretend that you are going to study well with your facebook, phone, music, six friends, and TV. Just study hard then take a break,” Mr. Zeckser said.

Caffeine: Did you know that one cup of coffee has been proven to improve memory performance, attention, and problem-solving skills? However, too much caffeine at the wrong time can completely mess with your sleep and study schedule, so avoid consuming energy drinks and too much coffee later in the day.

UNHEALTHY –

Distractions: Listening to music while texting and facebooking will not allow you to get any efficient studying done. Don’t try to multitask when it comes to preparing for finals- try to buckle down and study up for an hour and a half with no distractions.

Pure-carb Breakfasts: Eating a high-carb breakfast isn’t nearly as beneficial as protein. Studies have shown that high-carb breakfasts contain tryptophan––an amino acid that is one of the reasons why people feel so sleepy after thanksgiving dinner, so trade up those pancakes with an egg sandwich.

Sugary Sweets: Eating candy provokes sugar high and lows, and bring down your attention abilities. Instead of snacking on sugary candies, like suckers and gummy bears, turn to dark chocolate for a better benefit. Dark chocolate increases blood flow to the brain and perception skills.

Re-reading Notes: Simply just re-reading your notes from class isn’t an effective studying method. Studying is more successful if it’s done actively––reviewing notes is still a good idea, but writing things down and doing verbal exercises to study are more beneficial.

Junk: You are what you eat. Eating junk foods, like chips and ice cream, have high levels of sugar and fat are stripped of certain essential nutrients, which can prevent the flow of blood and nutrients to your brain. Avoid eating junk as a studying snack; it’s not a brain food, so trade in those chips for whole grain crackers and ice cream for some yogurt.

Procrastination and Cramming: It’s always tempting to push off studying time, but procrastinating only increases anxiety and stress levels. Cramming in studying time last minute isn’t nearly as effective as studying regularly for shorter amounts of time, and can easily deprive you of sleep. “As with any big test, you should start studying days before and not cram the night before. Take advantage of what your teachers tell you,” health teacher Ms. May said.