• Wed. May 22nd, 2024

Stressing the importance: why self care is such a key aspect of your exam success

ByEleanor Parker

Apr 22, 2016


With exams coming up, it is more necessary than ever for you to look after your own body and ensure that you’re walking into the exam hall feeling as ‘well’ as you possibly can be. Determination alone could get you through, but when long days in the library start to take their toll and your head is a mess of several different courses, subjects and even languages, it is very easy to forget about everything that exists outside of studying.


My own thoughts about self-care were prompted after watching the BBC programme How to Stay Young, presented by Angela Rippon and Dr Chris van Tulleken. The programme, in focusing on the debate over whether ageing stems from genetics or personal lifestyle, made me think about the level of care I put into my own body based on my own lifestyle. Ageing might be the least of your worries during exams, but it’s good to start early, and stress is often a key factor in the ageing process. The last few weeks of the semester are always busy and I prioritised everything, apart from self-care, to make sure all my work was done. This definitely had an effect on my emotions and left me exhausted.


I was grumpy, unnecessarily short with people and cried more than I should have done. I openly sobbed when my flatmates played an April Fool’s joke on me, when it was actually pretty funny. Whoops. I don’t want a repeat of my stress during the oncoming exam diet or for anyone else. So I want everyone to stop, put down your pens for a second, shut your laptop and take five minutes out of your hectic schedule to breathe.


Reading this article is a good start. This is not called procrastination. This is a method of self-care, by giving your brain the time to relax away from your studying. Forget about being generous to others, sympathetic, blah, blah, blah and put yourself first (ok, not all the time, but treat yo’ self every once in a while).


How To Stay Young looked at an interesting study which found that dancing is actually better for you than going to the gym, if done with the same intensity and for the same duration. Does this not imply that a weekly evening out on the dancefloor will have the same effect as a session at the gym…? I’m not encouraging evenings of alcohol infused dancing at clubs until the early hours of the morning the night before an exam, but dancing is a positive way to let off some steam after being cooped up behind a desk all day. There are of course specific classes that follow this idea, such as Zumba, but if that’s too much, then a good jive around your kitchen might also be just what you need to spur yourself onwards and upwards to ‘feel good’ success. Or, if the music at home doesn’t get you grooving, try a night out at Boteco on Bristo Place.


The best message I took from this new documentary though was the importance of having a happy disposition. In relation to ageing, being comfortable with your own age is supposed to make you age ‘better’. In relation to exams, being comfortable in caring for yourself will make you exam ‘better’. 40 per cent of your own personal happiness stems from your daily activities and relationships, so keep that sector of the pie chart topped up by looking out for yourself.


Make sure you get some fresh air every day. Go and have a look at the daffodils in the Meadows on your lunch break. Take a proper lunch break. Bake your favourite cake. Balance your lunch with healthy, life prolonging foods such as carrot sticks and hummus and your favourite chocolate bar. Drink more water; it clears your head space. Put yourself first and you’ll see the rewards.


Pick the thing that keeps you calm, relaxed and happy and make time for it during exams. Take a day out of each week (don’t go to the library on a Sunday, for example – crazy, I know!) and plan yourself an adventure to Portobello beach to feel the wind in your hair and the sand between your toes.


I would just like to add a small disclaimer to say that self-care does not imply that you should abandon caring for everyone else; self-care is caring for everyone. Spread the love! I know that my own exam schedule finishes before that of my flatmates and so I will be using all my efforts to continue encouraging them. There’s no guarantee, but I can vouch that I will be gaining myself quite a few brownie points by literally baking chocolate brownies when May 11th finally rolls around.


[Image: Unsplash @ Pixabay]

By Eleanor Parker

Ellie is a fourth year History undergraduate and former Lifestyle editor.

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