Health on a Budget: Stay healthy during studying frenzy

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You don’t want to start your summer stressed out and exhausted.

   By the time most of us have made it through the mental wringer of finals, we are exhausted from long study sessions, perhaps jittery from too much caffeine, and feeling gross from eating more junk food than normal.  These conditions have described me and many classmates for years, but this isn’t how it has to be.

   To start your summer break on the right foot, try these suggestions while you study for your finals.

Study length and breaks

   According to MIT.edu article titled “Tooling and Studying: Effective Breaks,” the optimal amount of time to study is in 50-minute increments. After hitting 50 minutes of studying, the same site suggests you take a 20-30 minute break. I would recommend you spend at least 10 of those minutes moving around doing something physical. After sitting and studying for long periods, your body needs to move and experience some unrestricted circulation.

   Also, be sure to set a timer on your breaks. One of the dangers of study breaks is getting off-track. I set timers on my phone, and, consequently, the balance of manageable study periods and frequent breaks took a lot of the drudgery out of studying for finals for me.

Hold to sleep routine

   Finals week and the week leading up to it is not the time to shake up your routine. As tempting as it is to say you’ll make up for your missed sleep and skipped exercise after finals, you’re better off sticking to your usual sleep and exercise schedule.

   According to Harvard Health Publications article “Repaying your sleep debt,” by neglecting your sleep and building sleep debt, you put yourself at greater risk for weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, stroke and memory loss.     

   So stick to student loan debt and skip the sleep debt.

Meal prep

   During the hectic time surrounding finals, I’ve previously let my eating habits slide in a big way, compromising with myself that it is just for finals. But this deviation from preparing food and eating well usually led me to be more lethargic after eating heavier meals than normal, and my body is rebellious, intestinally speaking, anyway.

   To get around these uncomfortable food situations, meal prep can save you quite a bit of trouble and money. I tend to prepare several ingredients that can be combined in various ways to create multiple types of meals with a handful of prepped foods.

   A meal prep starter kit can consist of: chicken, frozen vegetables and rice.

   I bake the chicken all at once, and then chop and store it in the fridge. Since most students don’t have a rice cooker, I would recommend you make about two cups of rice and store the cooked rice in your fridge also.

   From this base of pre-cooked food, it is easy to heat up some of the frozen vegetables in a pan, add some chicken after the veggies are heated, then plate it all on some rice for a simple stir-fry. You can mix things up adding a single new ingredient to this base, like subbing the rice for ramen noodles or putting the ingredients in a tortilla with some avocado for a more portable food.  

     Most of all: Don’t let finals make you hate school. For graduating seniors, use these tips to help graduate on a high note, not a stressed-out one. And for those of use still in it for the long haul, here’s to making finals comfortable enough that coming back in the fall does sound like a terrible idea.