Better Grades through Better Living

Less hard slog. More performance-enhancing health

I have vivid memories of my final year of high school. Even though it was over 20 years ago, a lot of things remain the same.

Huge workload. Massive pressure to do well. Hormones. Competition. Peer pressure. Distractions. Independence. And the hella scary thought of one’s entire future being determined by a just handful of exams.

Recently, I was chatting with my good friend and GP, Dr Lucy Rosman. She is running some fantastic workshops with year 12 students and guiding them to a healthier and more productive year.

I was inspired to share my own health tips for students navigating this daunting year.

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3 Steps to better performance that don’t involve hard core study

Step 1. Prioritise for your health

When there’s so much work to do, it’s tempting to pull back on other activities, bunker down and just slog away at the pile of study.

Using every spare minute to get ahead is counter-productive and may actually have the opposite effect to what you’re trying so hard to achieve. Sitting at your desk for hours on end is horrible and a recipe for boredom, sluggish thinking and a grumpy mood.

So what can you do instead?

Be like the woodcutter who makes time to sharpen his axe to make his job of chopping down the forest so much quicker and enjoyable.

Your brain is your axe. Staying healthy will keep it sharp so you can chop through your forest of work with clarity, and efficiency.You’ll also be more resilient to sickness and stress. You’ll avoid burnout, make better decisions and have the energy to be able to make the most of this busy year.So make your health a priority and build your routine around healthy activities.

Step 2. Embrace the simple fundamentals of healthy living

So which activities will be most helpful in sharpening your axe?

My advice is to keep it simple and stick to the simple fundamentals that will give the most benefit. Eat. Move. Chill.

EAT good food

You brain needs good fuel. Good nutrition will keep your brain cells functioning at their best and maintain your immunity so you don’t get sick.

More fruit, veg, lean proteins (eggs, nuts, meat, seafood) and water.

Less processed, sugary, refined foods which will cause highs and lows in your energy levels.

MOVE your body

Exercise gets the blood circulating, burns up stress hormones and gives you a hit of feel-good endorphins.

Some sunlight and fresh air will do wonders for your concentration and focus. Sport is great for taking your mind off study for a while and reducing stress. Make sure you don’t totally give up on sport to focus on study… it’s an essential ingredient to your success.

Aim for at least a 15 minute walk/jog each day. Follow along a youtube bodyweight workout or yoga session. Stretch. Get up from the desk and do a couple of sets of squats and pushups.

It all adds up and helps to give you a huge productivity boost.

CHILL out. Relax and recover

You need to sleep at least 7 hours every night. 8–10 is even better. This is something you can’t cheat on. Things start to go downhill very quickly when you don’t get enough sleep. Think of it as fuel just like food and water.

Don’t be tempted to pull all-nighters studying. All you will do is impair your memory and speed of processing. Nothing you read will stick. You’ll find yourself just sitting and staring at your books. Sleep deprivation will cause you to make costly mistakes, negating your extra study time and effort.

There are not many opportunities to sleep in, so to get sufficient sleep you need to make sure you get to bed on time. Nothing better than waking up refreshed and ready to face the day.

And don’t forget to relax. Chill out with friends. Enjoy music. Decompress.

Learn some mindfulness (Headspace app is great) and learn to recognise your stress. Find techniques to reduce your muscle tension and manage the worry. Breathing, Yoga and meditation are all very useful even if you only do it for a few minutes.

Step 3. Be Consistent

Firstly, be consistent with staying healthy. Make sure it stays on your schedule as a priority, especially as things get hectic busy. If you make sure that you get your good food, exercise and sleep, you WILL find time for everything else.

Secondly, stay consistent with your study. Attack it in blocks of 20–30 minutes. Keep accumulating blocks of work which will put you in good stead when it comes to exam time. Even if the workload seems insurmountable, just keep chipping away one little block at a time.  Be mindful of procrastination.

Remember, getting good sleep is one of the easiest things you can do to improve your results. Therefore you need to minimise last-minute cramming. Keep working through the year to get as much work done as you can before exam week.

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I have fond memories of my final year at school. I enjoyed it and did well. And you can too. Looking after your health will be the best thing you can do to have a better year.

Look after yourself and ENJOY!

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