The 5-MINUTE Cram-Sesh REFRESH Routine

7 May

“Okay, so I’ll study for chemistry until 3am, then I’ll sleep until 6am, wake up and study for calculus until my exam at 2pm. Then from 4pm to 8pm I’ll study for geo-sciences while I finish up that project with my group before I start editing my paper for English…”

We have all listed out these insane schedules at some point. Suddenly we see ourselves as the the 24-hour masters of productivity, equipped with endless energy, focus, and determination. Nothing will stop us! All we need is a few more hours!

We mean well. We’re just trying to get the most out of our study time after all. But we also know how these cram sessions actually play out.  In the end, our eyes start to droop at hour five, we have read the same sentence fifteen times, and our meticulously-planned time schedule has fallen apart, leaving us starving, sleep-deprived, and stressed.

Finals are already upon us, so that recommended three-week study plan is kind of out the window. You may have no choice but to enter into that cyclical nightmare of cram, exam, repeat. But, don’t worry! If you’re feeling sleepy, distracted, or JUST CAN’T EVEN during your study time, there are still some simple strategies you can start using RIGHT NOW to get you fresh, fueled, focused!

 (And if you tell me you can’t spare five minutes….well, I won’t say you’re a liar. But…well…you are.)

Your 5-minute Cram-Sesh Refresh Routine:

1. Go outside.

Did you know that natural sunlight energizes you? This is because it literally resets your brain. You can read about the science here, but it basically has to do with light exposure stimulating the area your brain that controls hormones, body temperature, and other functions that make us feel tired or awake.

So when you’re feeling sleepy, step outside and take a walk for a couple minutes. Yes, you actually have to go outside for this to work (fluorescent lights aren’t enough!). The added movement will also give your body an extra boost, leaving you refreshed and focused.


2. Stretch it out.

I’m not even talking full-on exercise here (although that’s obviously ideal). I mean simple stretches that will get you out of the same hunched-over position you have been in for the last four hours. The best energizing stretches are the ones that:

    • Elongate your spine (even adjusting your posture helps!)
    • Open up your chest (more oxygen, means more wakey-wakey!)


3. Talk it out.

Now, I don’t mean call a friend for an hour. That is what we call procrastination. But stepping back from your notes or computer screen to chat is an easy way to give your brain a break. If you really want to utilize this time well, here are some energizing topics:

    • LOL . Light-hearted conversation and genuine laughing boosts your oxytocin levels (the social trust hormone). This automatically will lower stress and calm you down.
    • Positivity. Here’s a trick. If you’re feeling down on life and that the world is out to get you, pretend it’s opposite day! People who regularly voice positive thoughts and gratitude in their lives, have been shown to live happier, more productive lives. Optimism: fake it, ’til you make it.


4. Snack it out.

Another fun science fact is that when the body gets stressed, it messes with your serotonin levels (the neurotransmitter that regulates things like body temp, emotions, and cravings!) The number one craving? Carbs, carbs, carbs. Especially the sweet, salty, buttery kind that is oh-so-good on your tongue, but never seems to fill you up.

We all know that these types of snacks are bad. That’s not news. But there are some snacks that will actually satisfy those cravings and make you feel more alert. Some snack tips:

    • No need to be elaborate. Throw some fruit and nuts into a zip lock bag and call it a day.
    • Have options. If you’re planning on some quality time with the library for 4+ hours, you might as well look forward to a nice spread of yum-yums.


5. Reset your environment.

If your plan is to set up camp a the library for days on end, you may want to rethink your campground situation. Sitting in the same place for hours and hours is unnatural for us (though you would think school would have prepared us!). But when it comes down to it, our bodies and brains aren’t meant to be completely still and focused on one thing. In fact, our natural attention span is about 50 minutes.

    • Set up your schedule plan to help your poor brain out by switching subjects or projects every 30-50 minutes.
    • MOVE spots. Similar to getting that sunlight exposure, a change of scenery essentially sets up your brain for new input (making new or old information easier to recall later).
    • Cut out the distractions. If you don’t need your computer, don’t bring it. Mute distracting noises like phones, Facebook notifications, and your best friend in the other room (how you mute them is up to you).

*Bonus Step: Power Nap. (But do it right.)

If you haven’t been getting enough sleep lately or just not enough quality sleep, this week is gonna be rough. Luckily naps can be a major help! Depending on the amount of time you can squeeze in for a nap, checking-out for 20 to 30 minutes can really recharge your mental, physical, and cognitive performance! Check below to see the different types of naps and the benefits of getting in just a couple more Z’s throughout the day!


Good luck on finals, Wildcats! Stay focused and fresh!

–Franny Caputa


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