It’s that time. The days are getting longer; sun cream’s being pulled from the backs of cupboards; legs are being shaved. But you’re chained to a desk, desperately trying to understand why the government is sadistically requiring you to remember pages and pages of tragic textbooks.
It’s understandable why we turn to buckets of tea and coffee, endless bars of chocolate and too many snack breaks. Exams are eating away at our souls and we have to fill that void with something. However, this is not the time to rely on junk food, but rather to give yourself the best nourishment with brain-friendly food. So here are some exam-munching tips:
- Eat regularly: it’s all too easy for the stress of revision and exams to disrupt our eating schedule. Binging on caffeine at midnight, mindlessly munching crisps through lunch or forgetting breakfast. No. Eat a solid three meals with sensible snacks in-between. We all know the feeling of our stomach hoola hooping with nerves pre-exam, but don’t let this put you off eating. What if you get half way through Chemistry and your tummy attempts to mimic mating whales? Never neglect your stomach: your brain won’t thank you for it.
- Eat more carbs: I don’t know about you but I find myself craving toast through the long hours of desk sitting. But it wasn’t until some GCSE Biology revision that I understood why. Glucose is the brain’s main respiratory fuel and source of energy, and is broken down from carbohydrates, which are chains of glucose. Interestingly glucose also explains why carbohydrates can make us fat. It’s stored in the liver and muscles as glycogen, but when these stores become full excess glucose is stored as lipid A.K.A fat. See some of that information is useful. While your brain is working overtime through the exam period it’s vital to feed it adequately. But this doesn’t mean eating horrible processed good-for-nothing carbs such as pre-sliced white bread. Try full and nourishing ones such as porridge oats, whole grain pasta and sourdough.
- Be kind to your body: in such stressful periods it’s easy for us to fall for ‘comfort eating’, telling ourselves we deserve the cake. By all means give yourself treats, however, it’s so important that your diet is, at this point, as good as it can be. It’s likely that you need to eat more, but eat more of the right foods and leave the treats for treats. Although, it’s worth remembering that dark chocolate is considered to be one of the best happy foods for its release of serotonin. I certainly took this information on board, eating far too much Green and Blanks, mint flavoured…
- Get up from the desk: hours and hours of sitting hunched over notes is good for no one. Don’t underestimate how much better you will feel for getting those limbs moving again. I find running to be one of the best stress releases (it’s the only time I can truly stop thinking), but also Pilates and Yoga are great when feeling tense for giving your body a much-needed stretch. However, it doesn’t matter what you do as long as it’s something. Walk, cycle, swim, throw books across your garden, wrestle your sibling, anything. Just get those endorphins going and give your mind a rest. Stress builds up adrenaline and if you don’t find outlets for it , it will start to make you ill.
- The Jelly Baby trick: during exam week I was surprised to be handed a bag of sweets by my mum. For she had read that two Jelly Babies should be eaten half an hour before an exam. It’s to give you a glucose spike – and we know why it’s so important. I’ll have to let you know in August if it made a difference. Although, I think it’s safe to say that eating the majority of the bag as my mum did before taking her GCSE maths (yes she is fifty, but you have to have it to be a teacher these days) probably only made her feel far far worse. I can’t imagine nerves mix well with that much sugar.
I hope those recent exams didn’t have you digging holes for yourself in the garden, wondering if life would really be that bad living as a hermit in Papua Nugini or planning what to do when your parents disown you. And remember, there’s always that celebratory cocktail waiting for you at the end!