Our bodies are made up of more than 60% water and in the modern heated and air conditioned world, we can dehydrate more readily than we realise.
We are also designed to be active and moving around and our metabolism assumes this will be the case and so we eat accordingly.
But at exam times, both during revision and in the exams period, we often don’t behave like that. We have to sit still indoors for long periods, either revising or actually sitting exams.
Modern snack food habits, combined with low attention spans of the modern world can also make that worse.
All of this contributes to fatigue, lethargy and loss of concentration, or as teenagers are likely to say “I’m bored”.
So keeping healthy and especially alert is as important for good exam performance as well as for revision.
8 simple, common sense tips to help
Drink water for alertness and to combat fatigue – contrary to popular myth, fatigue is not best dealt with by coffee or high caffeine drinks. Fatigue is very often a sign of dehydration. When I am working a long session, I find drinking water is often a far better approach. Green tea is also a good option if you need something warm.
Regular water is fine – it doesn’t have to be expensive bottled water, just simple tap water works just as well. But personally I find that a bit boring all day. So I slice up a citrus fruit like grapefruit or orange or lemon or lime, to add a little flavour and variety during the day
Identify when concentration is lapsing – little and often is much better than a large amount twice a day. Keep some water handy and have a drink every time you finish a 30 minute session (see my Blog 7 Ways to Improve Concentration When Studying for more on that). Even in exams make sure you have water with you for the same reason
No sugary soft drinks in the day – the initial sugar rush from these soon runs out and the lethargy sets back in. They can also cause you to feel bloated and gassy if you are sitting still at a desk and not moving around, either revising or in an exam.
Keep off caffeine – coffee or energy drinks and are ok for a quick boost, but not the way to sustain concentration over several hours exam or revision
Eat little and regularly – I find big meals need digesting and that diverts my energy from concentration into digesting the meal. And avoid dairy such as cheese, butter, ice cream during the day. Eat light foods such as ripe bananas, blueberries, fish, walnuts, salads or vegetables and nuts. But it’s not all bad news. Dark chocolate contains substances called poly phenols that improve brain function, so I have a little treat now and again too!
Avoid salty, starchy and high sugar foods – I find heavier starchy foods need a lot more digestion than lighter foods, reducing my energy levels for longer. And salty snacks like crisps make me thirsty and increase dehydration. So I avoid them during the day. Unsalted nuts are fine and contain good protein, but avoid salted nut snacks
Take care of yourself – you need to focus on the studying and exams – if you follow the simple common sense things, you will be more alert, concentrate better and in the end increase your chances of doing well in those exams.