It was my senior year of high school. My friend and I had tickets to a concert, but I found out a week before the event that I had two tests scheduled for the day after the show. I hadn’t studied as much as usual, but decided to go to the concert anyway, taking along note cards that I read on the bus ride into the city. The result? I stayed out later than any other night in high school, I got less sleep than usual and I aced both exams.
We’ve all been told about the importance of maintaining healthy habits during finals week. Eat balanced meals. Get plenty of sleep. Take your Vitamin C. All of this advice follows the belief that having a healthy body leads to a healthy mind, which leads in turn to improved performance on exams.
While I don’t doubt this logic, I do propose that relaxation is the key to enhanced performance on exams. Forget this eight hours of sleep, 12 hours of studying routine and try doing something different-relax. This may not seem like the soundest advice and I don’t want to downplay the importance of studying hard. Medical studies have indeed shown that relaxation can be the secret to test-success.
A night of good fun or any form of just plain old relaxation before test time has been proven to yield higher scores.
Why? When we feel relaxed, we are able to focus on what we are doing and think things through clearly. In contrast, when we are stressed, our minds are too frazzled to focus. So we “blank out,” forgetting the names of the paintings we studied in art history or carelessly skipping steps while calculating the concentration of ions in solution for our chemistry exams.
So in preparation for finals, I suggest we relax a little. Instead of spending hours in the library determined to do every practice problem over and over, maybe we should take more breaks, enjoy the outdoors, meet friends for lunch and go out to see movies. Two great activities with both mental and physical health benefits are available through the South 40 Fitness Center – yoga classes and massage appointments. Yoga improves balance, strength, flexibility, circulation, digestion and elimination. The meditative quality of classes calms the body and mind, leaving you tranquil yet rejuvenated at the same time.
Massage has similarly relaxing effects, but you may not be as aware of its physical health benefits. Massage actually improves circulation, providing oxygen and nutrients to the cells. It also stimulates the lymphatic system, which carries away waste products that have built up in the body. When you exercise so hard that you have trouble breathing, your body produces lactic acid that stores up in your muscles. The acid is then filtered out of your body through the lymphatic system and the kneading and rubbing of a massage aid in this filtration process. The filtration relieves any physical tension in muscles and also prevents future cramps or discomfort, which is why your body feels so refreshed after a massage.
Just remember, do whatever it is that makes you feel relaxed (playing videogames, solving Sudoku, rock climbing, playing guitar, watching 24, etc.) during finals week too. I guarantee your days will be a little happier and hopefully your scores will be a little higher, too.
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