Exams and Play

Memorizing copious amounts of information, researching for a ten-page term paper, and still managing to balance a social life and play is much easier said than done. Every year when December and April roll around, I am tempted to retreat into my hermit hole and temporarily bid adieu to the rest of the world. However, not only did that particular approach leave me slightly resentful and bitter, it also prevented me from getting the academic results I was striving for.

One of the first steps I took to change how I experience exam season was to sit down and figure out what types of activities energize me, whether physically, mentally, or both. This certainly wasn’t easy. After a few semesters of trial-and-error tactics, I came to realize that I am far more productive when I am genuinely enjoying myself, or if I know there is something that I can look forward to in the next few hours. Ideally, reviewing notes for even the most monotonous exam would feel like play to me, but this is not always possible. Instead, I have learned to incorporate various activities into my study times to help change up my routine and give me a much-needed mental and physical break.

Here are a few of the activities I find myself returning to time and again during exams (or other periods of stress) when I need a charge of energy:

Movement Moments (like walking a dog)

As an avid follower of dog Instagram accounts like @tofu_corgi and @dobaninu, I am part of the unfortunate group of dog lovers who do not actually own a dog. What do I do instead? Tag along with my friends when they take their dogs out of course!

There’s a reason why so many people ask about campus puppy visits during April:

Dogs always need to be walked. If I know a close friend in my neighborhood who owns a fluffy little pooch, I know I can always count on them to be up for a trek outdoors, even during exam season. Dog walking allows you to stretch your legs, find a bit of rejuvenation, and play with a little animal that’s probably excited to see you. The positive energy can be such a refreshing change from the tense apprehension that affects campus during exam time.

Find a Friend (you could share music playlists)

It can feel almost impossible to meet up with friends during exam season. But the camaraderie and support of family and friends are still as important at this busy time. My closest group of friends have a designated ‘study house’ where we meet up and work on assignments together.

If face-to-face interactions are difficult to arrange, we resort to useful websites such as Plug.dj. This way, we can share our music playlists with each other when studying, which reminds us that we are all in this together, while at the same time introducing me to new tracks for my study playlist. Try to establish a general set of rules (no lyrics, no death metal, etc.) before sharing music to avoid any potential DJ battles!

Cafe Crawl (remember to find cafes with electrical outlets and wifi)

I am the type of person who enjoys having separate spaces (when possible), for sleep, study, and play. When I’m in my bedroom, I have a tendency to start yawning, no matter how many cups of coffee I’ve already consumed that day. Therefore, if I cannot secure an alternative location to study in the house, I often relocate to a local cafe (as long as there are outlets at every corner and WiFi to spare). While packing up my bag, hopping on the nearest bus, and purchasing a deliciously crafted latte all cut into potential study time, I’ve noticed that getting some fresh air and walking around between subjects does wonders to restore my concentration.

Sometimes I have to stay indoors all day. When that happens, I still try to move around every time I feel my limbs growing stiff or my shoulders sore. Alternatives I have found to sitting in front of a laptop include printing out my notes and walking around the room, reciting facts and information from the top of my head. The steady pace of my footsteps keeps my mind focused and contributes to my step counts for the day!

Despite all of my efforts, final season may never become my favorite time of the year. But when I stay aware of all my actions and study style during these few weeks, I can do a lot to relieve stress.

For more self-help resources or professional support, visit UBC’s Stress Less for Exam Success page. Also, feel free to drop by the Wellness Center or the UBC Learning Commons at IKBLC to chat with a student peer about how they study and incorporate play into exams. We are always happy to chat with you and help connect you with more resources.

Happy studying!

Photo taken by and post written by Kleo Fang