Stay Active and Healthy in Stressful Periods
By: Jessy Bogacki
It’s no secret that the diet and exercise of a student tends to slip during exam times/stressful periods and the days leading up to the due date of a big assignment. You sit at your desk staring at a computer, books, and notes, only getting up to go to the bathroom. Stress is exceedingly powerful and can cause our bodies to feel fatigued, physical pain such as headaches, changes in appetite, and can lead to difficulty concentrating. Instead of permitting the stress to take hold of our bodies, we need to be proactive and conscious of how to stay healthy and fit in the times where we need it the most.
One thing that’s crucial is to make sure you don’t forget to sleep – you need sleep. I know you don’t always think you do, but it’s true. Within the first hour of studying, pay attention to how many pages you read, and then try again at midnight. The odds are you either read less or read the same amount but retain less information. Getting adequate sleep or at the very least more than you are planning to will help bring your brain up to the speed it started at. While you could slow down and power through the night at half speed, instead sleep for a little bit and double your productivity.
There are typically two types of people during peaks of stress: those who are constantly stress-eating and smashing bags of potato chips, and those who feel they can’t waste time preparing food – both of which are problematic. Meal prepping is a great way to make sure your body is fueled and equipped to take on a day or week of studying. This way when you require sustenance you will have something arranged already that you could consume quickly and know what you’re eating is healthy for you. It’s best practice to cook lean meats with natural oils in the oven, chop up your favourite vegetables and put on a pot of rice. In under an hour you should have a complete meal with healthy fats, protein, and carbohydrates; simply package them in individual containers and they are ready to go when you get hungry. If you feel like you always need to be chewing something you can snack on the raw vegetables without consuming an abundance of excess calories. Similarly do your best to make unhealthy foods inaccessible – it is extremely hard to eat a chocolate bar if you don’t have a chocolate bar. Actively be aware of where you choose to do your work, and go places where you do not have access to unhealthy foods. You will not be as tempted if you take away the temptation or make getting the desired food a chore in itself.
A big reason people don’t engage in regular physical activity is that they don’t have time, and this becomes increasingly problematic when it comes down to crunch time. If you were to make a schedule of your day today or any other day, chances are there were times when you checked social media on your phone, watched TV, or relaxed after a big meal. I’m not saying during these things are necessarily bad; what I am saying is that there is some time in your day that you can afford to give up. It’s all about priorities, and during stressful times it’s best to have your priorities straight. Sit down and schedule your day with the things that need to be done and would best benefit you and the tasks that need to be completed.
Demanding periods causes exhaustion – mentally, emotionally, and physically. I know you feel like every second should be taken to do your work, but doing one thing for a long time will eventually slow you down. You need to take some breaks and in that time I would suggest you exercise. I suggest you do this not only because it’s my job, but also because exercise is going to help with your fatigue, emotional state of wellbeing, and physical pain. Many people get headaches when straining their eyes on a computer screen for hours on end or from straining their neck muscles. Stretching and simply a change of scenery like a walk outside can be very beneficial. Exams are hard enough – they don’t also have to be painful, so listen to your body.
With small bouts of exercise, you don’t have to find an hour and a half to go to the gym, work out, and return home or to the library. All you need is a bit of open space or to slip on your shoes and go outside. Ten minutes of exercise a few times throughout the day can be just as effective as doing it all at once. Don’t add the stress of going to the gym unless you want to go to the gym. Bodyweight exercises such as squats, lunges, push ups, dips, planks, burpees, etc., are all valid and effective was to maintain strength, body weight, and fitness. While finding time may seem like a burden, the results of not doing so will be even more detrimental. Remember that a gym is not needed to stay active and healthy and to be the best version of yourself.