With the holiday season comes another season, one which students around the nation view with various mixtures of nervousness and dread - finals. However, with the right study habits, finals can be a time of achievement rather than one of stress.
Sharon Loeb, a study expert at McGraw-Hill Education, recently released her top 5 study tips for a successful finals week.
It should come as no surprise that food is one of the most important elements in maintaining our overall physical well-being, including energy levels and brain function. Though the stress of studying may prompt students to reach for unhealthy, sleep-inducing comfort foods like pizza and fried chicken, research shows that there are many delicious food and beverages that can actually improve the way we think and work. Dark chocolate, for example, is chock-full of antioxidant properties and contains natural stimulants that produce endorphins while enhancing focus and concentration. Berries of all kind - also rich in antioxidants - are known to improve memory and motor coordination, as are the properties found in coffee. Students should consider the benefits of these "power foods" before settling for unhealthier indulgences to get them through finals.
Add exercise to your study routine. Numerous studies have demonstrated the positive correlation between exercise and improved brain function. Many of us, however, neglect our exercise routines during periods of intense studying and stress. That's a big mistake because exercise helps push more oxygen and glucose (sugar) to your brain which are basically the high-octane fuel your brain needs to perform its best. Just make sure you pick the right type of exercise - exercise that gets your heart pumping but doesn't overly tax your muscles (i.e., aerobic vs. anaerobic) is best because your brain doesn't have to share as much fuel with other muscles. So, getting out there walking or lightly jogging is better for your brain function than sprinting or lifting weights.
According to an associate psychology professor at Howard University, making personal connections to course material can help students retain and recall information. Also known as "mnemonic devices," students who develop acronyms, rhymes, visuals or other shortcuts while studying, are actually helping their brain better file and encode relevant information. Arguably, mnemonic devices may take a bit more time and creativity; however, students who use more innovative study methods oftentimes outperform their peers who opt for more of a conventional study path.
Several studies, including one by researchers at Cardiff University in Wales, find that chewing gum while studying actually increases alertness, improves productivity and actually lowers stress levels. In many instances, students who chew gum display reduced anxiety and quicker reaction times. This is because the act of chewing actually causes a temporary increase in arousal, which leads to increases in heart rate, blood pressure and blood flow. Whether it's Extra, Trident or Bubblicious you prefer, students should consider a trip to their local local market before hunkering down to study.
Technology can be your greatest ally or your biggest enemy when it comes to studying for finals. Students should consider curbing their use of mobile devices, tablets and computers to access social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter) that may be disruptive to the studying process, but should leverage these same technologies to access study tools that make the process much easier, more engaging and more effective.