By Aurelia Mouton
As the cold descends upon Stellenbosch University (SU), the exam season creeps closer too. With loadshedding and online classes, it has been a tough semester so far for many students, but there is still time to turn that around. Die Matie is here to help with a few easy tips to make life a bit more bearable in the upcoming exams.
Dr Erna Gerryts, psychologist and academic advisor for the Centre for Student Counselling and Development (CSCD) said, “It is best to sit down with a calendar, write down your exam dates and plan your study sessions ahead of time.”
This is because, Gerryts said, good planning helps to ease anxiety, so students should try to avoid cramming two days before a big exam.
“Sleep and healthy eating should also not be underestimated. Don’t change your sleep schedule. Instead, maximise your daily routine to suit your study needs. Avoid overloading on sugar and carbs, as they don’t actually give you more energy and leave you feeling more tired and sluggish,” Gerryts added.
Skip the syrupy, sweet donuts and pizza, and stock up on some vegetables, leafy greens and good proteins like fish, nuts and legumes. If you are going to drink lots of coffee, make sure you match each cup with a glass of water to avoid dehydration. Gerryts suggests investing in a few packets of Cup-a-Soup for those late night salty snack cravings, instead of eating something too heavy before bed.
In terms of study breaks, taking them regularly is paramount. Ditch the phone though, as scrolling through TikTok and Instagram takes up too much mental space, according to Gerryts. Take a walk or chat to some friends instead, she said, in order to feel refreshed and ready to continue working.
Gerryts’ best advice? Identify a few good study spots and rotate them weekly. That way, one will not get stuck in a rut or feel scatterbrained by constantly looking for a quiet area to hit the books.
“Always plan your comeback! Know what work you are going to do after your break before taking it. It gives you purpose and reminds you during your breaks not to dawdle over the set break time. It also helps you avoid distracting, passive activities like scrolling on your phone,” she said.
If one is watching Netflix during study breaks, opt for a show with a running time of less than 30 minutes. This will help to avoid falling into a binge session in front of the screen. Pick something light and comedic to relieve stress and increase the happy hormones, serotonin and dopamine. Shows like Parks and Recreation, Community and Gilmore Girls are crowd favourites that students can always rely on for a laugh or two between those intense study sessions.
Listening to positive music or podcasts is also a good idea and keeps one’s mind stimulated during breaks.
“I think balance is most important during exams. I make sure I exercise, eat and sleep enough, otherwise nothing I study sticks in my brain!” said Bella Pretorius, second-year B (Social Work) student.
Gabrielle Koense, a second-year BA (Language and Culture) student, said, “I don’t know if I am ever really well prepared, but I usually start studying days before the exam, because I hate all-nighters, and sleep is important. When I feel overwhelmed, I put on a Disney playlist and listen to that while studying, then I don’t feel stressed and do feel more confident.
“I also mute WhatsApp groups. I don’t know why, but it gets distracting for me when people ask questions and explain theories, etc. To prevent confusion and stress for myself, I mute them.”
She also said that she lives by the motto “If I don’t know it by midnight, I just don’t know it” and believes that a person can’t do everything, but they can do their best.