Finals Season: Self-care Guide for the Healthcare Student

Man focusing on self-care around study material. MEDIjobs

The ultimate goal of finals season is to do well on your exams and keep yourself sane while you’re doing it, self-care is a must. Our previous article, Finals Week Study Tips for Healthcare Students, gives you to run down on how to utilize the best tactics to study. Now we’re bringing you all the tips you need to stay relaxed, focused, and performing your best and guess what, it does NOT involve studying!

Relax

First and foremost, take a deep breath knowing that you’ve survived finals before, and you’ll survive finals again. Much of what causes us to feel overwhelmed during finals week is simply letting stress get the best of us. Utilize breathing exercises if you’re feeling anxious to help calm your nerves. Doing this before starting your final exam is also a good way to keep those tense feelings under wraps.

Take breaks

Balance is the key to life, and finals week is no exception. The goal of studying is not to cram in as much time as humanly possible, it’s to make sure the time you do spend studying is done efficiently. Studies show that your brain needs time to absorb all that material you’ve been learning. Breaks are a key component for this to work so it’s important to find what works for you. For some people, it’s 50 minutes on and 10 minutes off, for others its 25 minutes on and 5 minutes off (known as the Pomodoro technique). Be sure to take other longer breaks too. I usually like to work these around when I have to eat, like dinner time, where I’ll grab a meal and take a quick shower and get back to studying feeling energized and refreshed. Whatever you decide to do, what’s important is that you find time to do something as a reward for yourself for all the hard work you’re putting in.

Eat nutritious foods

During my time in college, students ate more unhealthy meals during finals than they did any other time (it’s me, I’m students). Being limited on time means often opting for those quick, easily prepared meals which tend to be low in nutritional value and high in caloric intake. This in turns acts counterproductively making you feel sluggish. Investing a little more time to prepare a healthy meal will be well worth it when you’re focused, energized, and retaining all that important information. This is especially important on the day of a final.

Eyeing that sugary energy drink to keep you up longer? Think again. Yes, these drinks will help you stay up longer, but you’ll also succumb to the infamous sugar crash and feel even lower later on. Water is a great way to keep long-lasting energy throughout the day. For an added boost, add in a power nap when necessary or a cup of coffee should do the trick.

Some brain foods that help you concentrate and boost memory include:

  • Eggs
  • Berries
  • Avocados
  • Broccoli
  • Celery
  • Leafy greens
  • Dark chocolate
  • Salmon
  • Walnuts
  • Oatmeal
  • Bananas
Stay hydrated

Water is your best friend. Dehydration causes of slew of side effects including headaches and fatigue which is a bad combination for a good study session. Most students are fueling up on caffeine during this time of the year which dehydrates you even more. Keep a reusable water bottle insight so you’re reminded to drink water throughout the day.

Exercise 

Being in the medical feel, I’m sure you’re aware of the mind-body connection. Exercise boosts blood flow to the brain while being sedentary slows everything down. Exercise also relieves stress, helps you focus, and gives you an added boost because of the release of endorphins which make you feel better. Finals week means time is limited so don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t get an hour in at the gym. Any exercise is better than no exercise. Wrapping up at the library and heading home? If you live close enough, skip the bus or drive and just walk or bike it. A stretch session in the comfort of your own home will make a world of a difference especially if you’re staring at a computer screen or book all day. Incorporating moving your body into your breaks is a great way to kill two birds with one stone. You could even get your friends to join in and make it a social thing. It doesn’t matter what you do or for how long you’re doing it as long as you’re getting your body moving.

Get some ZZZ’s

All-nighters are tempting but coupled with being stressed out and not eating well, it’s a recipe for falling sick. And trust me, you do not want to risk getting sick during finals. For that reason, be sure to get that beauty sleep. If a full night’s rest isn’t realistic, try to sneak in some power naps throughout the day. Remember, sleep helps you to retain all that information you’ve been studying. Try to at least get a full nights rest the night before an exam, you’re going to need all the energy you can for the actual exam. Power naps are your best friend. These can be especially helpful when you’re feeling that “crash” feeling coming on. Don’t ignore the warning signs your body is giving you. Close that laptop and put your head down for 15-20 minutes and see how much better you’ll feel when you wake up.  

Implement as many of these self-care tips as possible and we guarantee you’ll not only feel better but do better on your exams as a result. Good luck and happy studying!

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About the author

Hajar Ahmed

Hajar Ahmed is a healthcare professional with a background in public health policy and management. She’s passionate about reducing health disparities and helping to implement wellness practices in everyday life. When she’s not off on a new travel adventure or cooking up a storm, she’s reading, writing, and talking healthcare.

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