Do you feel like the world is slowly closing in on you? Was your last meal a piece of gum you found at the bottom of your bag? Don’t worry, wellness theorist Anna Hotter has some unsolicited advice for you.
Let me preface this by saying that I am not a particularly healthy, or mentally fit human being. I consume most of my meals either standing up or lying down, and I have been known to sleep through several fire alarms. The point is: I am probably not one of the top five people qualified to give out lifestyle advice,* but here I go.
Food: The Goldilocks problem.
Too little and you will pass out climbing the Hamilton staircase, too much and you will pass out in a JJs armchair. Try to eat regular meals of reasonable portions, and try to not eat too late in the evening or at night.
If you do feel like you might be running out of energy during an all-nighter, stick to simple sugars and avoid grease. Sugary foods release energy quickly, which will give you an instant boost, while fatty foods tend to make you more tired.
Sleep: Get it, girl!
If you are pulling multiple all-nighters, try napping for 30 minutes to 90 minutes every couple of hours or whenever you feel too tired to work. I unfortunately had to do this during finals last year, and it is far better than staying awake for 20+ hours at a time and then getting just one chunk of sleep.
On a related note, you should try to get to know your sleep cycle to optimize nap-time. Most people complete a sleep cycle in about 90 minutes, after which you should wake up refreshed. If you sleep for too long and wake yourself up during a deep sleep phase you might end up feeling groggy.
Also, if you find yourself not being able to sleep even though you want to, there are several things you can do. For one, try to use your bed only for sleeping. That means don’t study in it, don’t watch TV in it, don’t eat in it (I happen to be guilty of all three). If you study in your bed, you will feel more tired because your brain goes into “sleep mode,” and conversely, when you actually do want to go to sleep you might not be able to because you associate it with work. It’s a no-brainer.
A second huge factor is working on your laptop at night, because the bright screen messes with your melatonin levels. You can use this to your advantage when you really need to stay awake by turning up the brightness, and just generally being in a well-lit environment. But when you want to sleep, your laptop screen is your worst enemy. Turn down the brightness, or better yet, get Flux, which both dims your screen according to the time of day, and keeps your eyes from getting tired.
Exercise: As if!
I hate to break it to you, but runner’s high is real. Exercise is good for you, not only in terms of the physical benefits, but also mentally and psychologically. If you don’t wanna go for a 5k right away, try to at least take a walk outside, or have a 5 minute dance party in your room. It will hopefully get your mind off work and boost your energy.
A great way to incorporate minimal(!) exercise into your day is doing a bit of morning yoga. Learning a simple sun salutation will take literally five minutes and you can do it pretty much anywhere and for however long you want. The stretching and slow movements will wake you up without requiring too much effort.
Work: What it all comes back to.
The first step of actually beginning a project is an important one, since many people are more anxious about that than completing it. If you look at your essay as a this daunting project, you are more likely to procrastinate, so try to get started as soon as possible. This connects to the fact that fear of failure can be intellectually and creatively paralyzing. Try to be as relaxed about your projects as possible and don’t exaggerate the stakes.
There are several tools you can use to put yourself into a more productive mindset. First, there is Noisli, and online text editor that features relaxing nature sounds and a beautiful, chromotherapy background. Noisli can help you break out of writer’s block, since you’re not just staring at a blank page.
Another thing you can do immediately before a final in which you have to give a written response is a stream of consciousness exercise. Again, getting the first word on the page can be very difficult, so it might be help you to start writing before the exam even starts.
Self Care: Treat Yo Self!
If you only remember one thing, let it be this. Be kind to yourself. Everything is going to be okay. Take some time out of your day to do something nice for yourself, even if you have, like, ten finals and five papers due. Whether it’s a nap, an episode of 30 Rock, or a cupcake, you deserve it. Be kind to yourself. You’ll be fine.
*They are, in order, Beoncé Knowles-Carter, whoever invented the Snuggie, your CSA adviser, Gwyneth Paltrow (duh), and Buddha
Camaraderie via Shutterstock