Let’s start off with some of the smallest and easiest changes that you can make - eating and drinking properly. If you’re tired and lacking concentration, you might think that having an energy drink or a strong coffee will help. The best thing to drink is actually water. Not drinking enough water can cause headaches, irritability, and a lack of sleep, whereas drinking plenty of water will keep you hydrated, and also helps increase your level of concentration. You should aim to drink at least a couple of litres of water per day - instead of constantly buying bottled water, get yourself a reusable water bottle (there's tons on Amazon), and get into the habit of carrying it around with you, whether you’re at home, in lectures, or in the library, and you’ll quickly feel the benefits. Better yet, get a water filter and couple it with your reusable bottle for maximum awesomeness.
What you eat can also have a big impact on your mood and ability to concentrate. When you’re spending a lot of time studying, it might seem easier to grab a ready meal, or order a takeaway, and get back to your revision. Taking a bit of time out to cook a proper meal will not only give you a well-deserved break, but you can also incorporate some “brain food” into your diet to help boost your concentration. They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day, and starting off your day with the right fuel will help you stay focused and energised for longer: eggs and avocados are both tasty options which will keep you full until lunchtime, as are blueberries and yogurt, as the antioxidants found in blueberries are supposed to boost memory and concentration.
Other superfoods which are supposed to improve your productivity and energy levels include spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, whole grains, oily fish, and nuts and seeds. All of these ingredients can be picked up at your local supermarket, and can be easily incorporated into most meals. Taking some time out of your day to prepare a healthy and delicious meal can make a big difference to how you feel: putting the right fuel into your body will benefit your brain as well!
It’s important to take breaks during your revision, rather than staring at your notes or books for hours on end. You should take a short break every 45 minutes to an hour, even if that’s just to get up and go to the bathroom, or go and get a drink (remember that reusable water bottle!). Your concentration isn’t infinite, no matter how much water and brain food you’ve been consuming, and having short, regular breaks will help break up your day and workload. Try to treat your revision schedule like a work day - take regular breaks, have a lunch hour, and have a “clock off” time where you’ll pack your books away and be finished for the day, so you’ve still got time left in your day to meet your friends, cook some dinner, sit down to watch a film, and relax.
Exercise is also really important for your mental wellbeing. Not only does exercising help you to keep fit, and release feel-good chemicals such as endorphins which will boost your mood, but doing even an hour of exercise per day will also help you to sleep. Getting plenty of rest is vital for your brain to be able to function properly. If you’re not big on exercising, or if you’re nervous about going to the gym, get your housemates involved - whether you go to a gym class (Lancaster University has brilliant gym facilities), or even just go for a brisk walk together, it’ll give you all a break from studying and is a fun social interaction, which is also really important for your mental health.
Your degree is important, but so is your wellbeing! Try not to put too much pressure on yourself around exam time. Deadlines and exams can be daunting, but if you’re looking after yourself properly and trying your best, we’re sure you’ll do brilliantly.