The Final Countdown

Finals are a stressful time for students, coming up at ARC from Dec. 17 to Dec. 20. (Photo by Daniel Romandia)

How to take care of your brain and body during end-of-semester exams

The good news: the semester is approaching its end. The bad news: it brings final exams on top of all the other exhausting and stressful tests we have already survived. Our weary brains beckon, “memory, concentration and energy boosters are wanted!”

Most professional advice regarding studying and exams is about fuel. Your best bet is to eat healthy to nourish not only your body, but your brain as well. A diet rich in essential fatty acids, fruits and vegetables does wonders for your brainpower.

“Studies have shown that Omega-3 fatty acids boost energy, enhance learning ability, improve problem-solving skills and boost memory power and enhance communication between brain cells,” according to Online University.

The foodstuffs made from whole, organic soybeans like soymilk and tofu are rich in choline, lecithin and isoflavones. According to the Online University, choline has been proven to positively impact brain development in addition to slowing memory loss, while lecithin helps in preventing deposits of plaque in the brain and isoflavones help improve cognitive function, category fluency, and logical memory.

The list of foods also include fruits, berries, leafy green vegetables, nuts, grains and even herbs and spices. Love chocolate?  Like the foods above, it also beneficial to your brain and can help enhance your mood. Milk chocolate has been shown to improve verbal and visual memory, as well as boost impulse control and reaction time. Dark chocolate is rich in flavanols that increase blood supply to the brain and help improve cognitive skills. And finally, pizza counts too, as long as you make it whole grain and top it with lots of colorful vegetables and cheese.

The second most crucial thing you can do to hedge your bets for finals is to get a good night’s rest. Sleep is as crucial as eating healthy. Dr. Robert Oexman, Director of the Sleep to Live Institute, in his article “Don’t Skip Sleep to Score High on Finals” says, “research has consistently shown that taking the time to sleep before an exam will benefit your test score more than four or five hours of staying awake staring at notes that you will not remember.”

Studies have shown that the right kind of music can help you relax your mind, which enables you to concentrate better, cuts down on distractions and helps you focus on your work.  According to a study by the University of Charlotte, a set of research results indicate that listening to Mozart’s music may induce a short-term improvement on the performance of certain kinds of mental tasks known as “spatial-temporal reasoning,” which is the ability to think about long-term and more abstract solutions to logical problems that arise. Baroque is another classical music style considered to have mind-boosting effects.

Classical music is not a preference for everybody, however, but there are other types of music that have been shown to increase your concentration levels. Ambient music or sound is designed to keep your brain engaged at a lower, subconscious level. Brian Eno’s “Music for Airports” has been noted as being useful for serious studying and deep concentration.

Finals aren’t something anyone looks forward to, but help is always near – just pay attention to your habits.

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