by Danielle Del Vicario
Every student has special exam season rituals. And I don’t want to mess with yours by making absurd recommendations or criticisms—who am I to tell you to get eight hours of sleep a night, colour code your flashcards and avoid spiking your blood sugar? If you have a routine and it works, stick to it. But if you don’t, or think that it could do with a little bit of tweaking, here are my five of my own in chronological order: from the pre-exam season preparation to the final dark sleepless days when all that matters is chocolate, AutoCorrect and a pen that still has ink.
Step 1: Clean the kitchen
When I’m stressed, mess makes me…well, more stressed. About a week before the real cramming begins, I take out the garbage and recycling, clear out the forgotten (and probably mouldy) leftovers from my fridge and tidy my dry-goods cupboard. While I’m at it, I usually make sure my peanut butter supply isn’t going to run out the night before my biggest exam and that my emergency bar of dark chocolate is intact.
Step 2: Put a Frisbee or ball in your study bag
When I hit breaking point in the library, I grab a friend—there’s always at least one just as desperate as me—and drag them outside for a fifteen-minute game of Frisbee or kickabout. It’s my best escape and has also, over the years, gained me a lot of great study buddies.
Step 3: Pack adequate study snacks
I never go to the library without snacks. Ever. My personal favourites are raw veggies, cheese and crackers, and—of course—apples and peanut butter. If I’m feeling particularly committed (read: if I’m really procrastinating), I make some hummus too. Check out my recipe or save yourself the time and pre-order your study snacks for pickup on the way to the library.
Step 4: Stay hydrated and avoid (excessive) caffeine
As the nights got later and later, and I got increasingly desperate, I used to find myself drinking cup after cup of tea just for something to do. To avoid the compulsive twitching this inevitably causes, I now opt for citrus water. (I would love to tell you I make delicious juice blends with ginger and wheatgrass but that’s just not the case.) I fill my two-litre glass jug with cold water, lemon, lime and orange slices. It sits on the corner of my desk and halts repeated (often intentionally self-induced) trips to the kettle.
Step 5: Keep favourite tea bags or coffee with you at all times
In direct counterpart to the previous step, throughout exam season I always carry my favourite tea bags with me. During a library study session I top off my cup with hot water refills from the closest café. The same principle can apply to instant coffee. Because come 10 pm, citrus water just isn’t strong enough.