No matter what education level you’re in — elementary school, high school, or university — studying for a test the next day can stress you out. There’s so much riding on this one day! All that worry can even make you do worse on tomorrow’s test, thanks to sleep deprivation and not focusing.
If you’re worrying yourself into a frenzy, take an exercise break. Run around your room, do some push ups, or shadow box. Not only will the break from studying give you a chance to recover, exercise will lower your stress level overall. Physical activity releases endorphins into your bloodstream, which will improve your mood and make you feel more alert.
A second benefit is that the exercise acts like meditation. As your mind focuses on the activity occurring in the moment, you don’t have the brain space to worry anymore. You notice how you fidget when you worry? A quick exercise channels that restlessness into physical activity.
When you study for a test, don’t make the mistake of studying for everything at once. That will just over. That will just overwhelm you and make you feel worse. Break down the material into individual concepts and then into questions that you can find answers to. By breaking the material down into bite-size chunks, you can be more focused and more effective in how you study.
Try using 3×5 index cards to write questions and answers on. Read the question, try and guess it, then flip it over for the answer. This simple repetition will make the material stick in your head than just review texts and notes.
It’s easy to get frustrated when studying. Sometimes an answer just doesn’t make sense. Sometimes it feels like your brain is full. Sometimes, no matter how many times you flip over an index card, you never see the answer you expect. It’s tempting in these moments to blame yourself and beat yourself up over it. Stop that. Your only making yourself feel worse.
Here’s the part of your study cram session where you forgive yourself for whatever grade you get. After all, you are putting in the work trying to understand the material. If you didn’t study and then do poorly, sure, blame yourself. But when you put in the effort to learn the material, you will always do better than if you didn’t.
You’re shooting yourself in the metaphorical foot if you skip dinner and pull an all-nighter to study for that big test. When you show up at the test the next day, you’ll be a zombie. Without both a good dinner and breakfast with lots of protein and vitamins, you won’t be able to hear yourself thinking over your growling stomach.
That doesn’t mean scarfing down a doughnut before the test and calling it good. German researchers found that elevated blood sugar can impair your memory. Whole grains are the way to go if you need the carbs, but protein is always better. Grab a smoothie or a yogurt instead.
Tests are stressful enough on their own, so make sure your study sessions help you do well instead of trip you up. Stress and health are linked, so lowering your test-related anxiety will not only help you do well in classes, it will make sure you can enjoy the fruits of your education for a long time to come.