Monday, November 28, 2011

1 week until finals' week.  About 2 weeks at the most until your last final of the semester.  That means you have at least a little over a week to prepare for your final exams.  I know, they're not fun to think about, especially when you don't actually have to start studying right now.  Nevertheless, it is highly beneficial to begin reviewing material ahead of time rather than cramming the night before.  I'm sure you've heard this advice before, but do you really know why cramming is ineffective or what may be a helpful alternative? 

 

Cramming: Using the last few hours (or even the last day if there's a lot of material) to study for an exam.  Studying usually occurs non-stop without many breaks and results in loss of sleep.

 

As I wrote the definition, I thought to myself—this method makes no sense! Yet, I have used it many times (okay maybe almost all of the time in undergrad).  Let's face it, it is hard to motivate yourself to start studying when you have homework due the next day and the exam isn't' for another week! 

 

So, why exactly is cramming ineffective?  Our brains need time to process information and store it in long term memory.  This process called consolidation requires sleep!  It is also beneficial to take a lot of breaks when studying to give your brain time to rejuvenate.  For instance, it has been shown that studying 20 – 30 minutes and then taking a short break helps the learning process rather than studying for 3 hours straight and taking a break, and then studying another 3 hours.  Also, if you want to retain what you learn after you complete the exam, cramming won't help.  You will likely forget what you learned shortly after the exam.  Lastly, you will do much better on an exam if you have a good night's sleep.  Taking an exam while you're half asleep is obviously not going to help you succeed.

 

I don't want to encourage cramming, but it can be effective when you know none of the material and you only left yourself a short time period to study.  In this case, taking the exam while you're sleep deprived, but know some of the material (as a result of cramming) is better than not knowing anything and being rested.

 

That said, good luck!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Every Thanksgiving break I run the same dilemma through my head.  I have a few days free...no demands (besides helping my mom prepare the Thanksgivings dinner) and no homework due the Monday I get back.  Perfect chance to relax, spend time with my family (who I haven't seen for a few months), see that movie I've been wanting to see, etc.  On the other hand, I could take advantage fo the free time by getting ahead. I could start studying for my stats final or continue writing the methods section of my master's thesis (which has been neglected the past month).  So, which one to choose?  Do a little of both? Easier said than done.  I'm sure a lot of you are in the same position as I am.  My solution?  Don't push yourself to do something you know you're unlikely to do.  If you say to yourself- I'm going to finish that paper that's due during final's week, you're probably setting yourself up for failure.  It's better to tell yourself you're going to try and work on it here and there, but if you don't get to it, that's okay.  There's no use in beating yourself up over the fact that you wanted to go Black Friday shopping instead of doing school work.  Bottom line: have fun, it isn't called "break" for nothing!  If you need to do work, then do it- just don't plan for more than you know you can accomplish.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The past couple of posts have been about energizing yourself in various ways.  Well, I am going to give you one last post along the same lines...energizing foods! Let's face it, we all like to eat, but sometimes the foods we put in our body don't have the nutrients we need to get us through the day.  Sure, that bag of chips will fill you up for the next half hour, but doesn't it make more sense to eat something for lunch that will keep you satisfied for the next few hours?  Here are a few super foods that will do the trick.

1.) Whole grains (bread, brown rice, oatmeal, etc.)  Whole grains keep you full longer because the blood absorbs their nutrients at a slower pace than high sugary foods.  So, instead of grabbing a candy bar and experience that sugar and crash that follows, whole grains will keep you going for longer without the plummet.

2.) Nuts (try to go for raw/dry roasted and unsalted)  Nuts are a great source of protein and magnesium, which helps convert sugar into energy.  I make a trail mix to eat during class when I start to feel a bit hunger and tired. It includes almonds, peanuts, a few walnuts, soy nuts, raisins, and sometimes pepitas (pumpkin seeds).

3.) Fiber (found in beans, whole grains, whole fruits and veggies, and some cereals)  Fiber gives you a more study energy supply by slowing down digestion.  You can get fiber enriched granola bars and cereals like Fiber One that taste yummy and give you a great source of fiber!

4.) Fresh fruit is full of water, which hydrates and energizes you.  Skip the pretzels and grab a juicy apple or celery sticks instead.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Ok, it's time for some more energy boosting activities and tips!  

1.) Sitting all day in a classroom or at your desk can make you feel sluggish.  So, get moving!  Take a walk, do some jumping jacks, or get up an stretch every now and then to get your blood circulating.  

2.) Get a change of scenery.  Whether that means doing those jumping jacks outside or taking your work to another room in your house doesn't matter.  The new surroundings will help give you a quick lift.  You may want to choose a spot near a window or with bright light to boost your energy even more.

3.) Drink water.  Make sure you stay hydrated during the day.  If you notice you're nodding off in class, grab your water bottle and take a few big sips- that should wake you up!  Put a slice of lemon in your water to perk you up even more.

4.) Take a power nap.  A 30 minute nap is enough time to let your body rest without it going into deep sleep. You're brain will be ready to work again!

5.) Caffeine.  Yes caffeine.  No one said it was all bad.  Don't overdo it (stick to 1-2 cups of coffee per day) and try to just drink it in the morning.  Otherwise, you may feel jittery and/or have trouble falling asleep at night.  Drinking green tea is a great alternative to coffee with slightly less caffeine.  You may also want to try a nonfat latte in the morning.  The protein from the milk will provide you with energy in addition to the caffeine boost.