Avocado toast

Whether you’ve got papers, presentations or exams coming up, finals can take a toll on your mind and body. It’s especially important to fuel up during this time, so you can retain information, maintain energy levels, concentrate and manage your stress. Here are some ways you can best prepare yourself and fuel for finals.

Follow the key equation

During high-stress and high-pressure times, you need high-quality fuel. That means you’ll need a combination of carbohydrates + protein + healthy fats. These major nutrients work together to power your brain, keep your energy high and improve memory and focus.

For breakfast, we recommend keeping it simple with a couple of hard-boiled eggs (protein + fat) with fresh fruit (carbohydrates). While all of these nutrients fuel us, a good balance of protein and fat helps to slow down carb digestion, meaning your carbs will give you more sustained energy throughout the morning, so you can avoid a crash before lunch.

Plus, eggs have lots of antioxidants, vitamins and choline – essential to the brain’s memory function. Fruit also has vitamins and antioxidants, plus natural sugars, which can make them a good source of sweet, on-the-go energy.

For lunch, we can recreate the carbohydrate + protein + healthy fats equation with a tuna sandwich on whole wheat bread (hello, fiber!) and avocado, which will help keep your blood pressure and stress levels low. When it comes time for dinner, we suggest aiming for something lighter: leafy greens with an olive oil-based dressing and a lean protein like chicken or tofu.

Resources available to you

If you’re struggling with depression, anxiety or stress management, try SilverCloud – a free, self-guided program to help you overcome feelings of depression, anxiety and stress.

Need someone to talk to? Consider attending a Let’s Talk session – free and confidential consultations for students on campus. All sessions are anonymous.

If you struggle with procrastination or have difficulty concentrating, join Getting it Done – a free, three-session workshop offered throughout the week.

Treat yourself

When you’re in Norlin all afternoon or up late studying, snacks can be your best friend. The same equation applies to snacking: Greek yogurt with granola, whole grain toast with peanut butter and string cheese or some classic trail mix with fruit and nuts are all great options. Pack a few extra snacks ahead of time so you’re prepared when the hunger hits!

For stressed induced cravings, we recommend dark chocolate. With antioxidants and a little jolt of caffeine, dark chocolate can actually increase blood flow to the brain and give you that extra boost of energy. It also causes your body to release endorphins, so you’re likely to feel happier and more relaxed.

Use these snack breaks as a break. Take a few minutes to savor what you’re eating, get a little distance from your work and practice mindfulness in the moment. Get a drink of water (staying hydrated is also necessary for focus and energy) and take a quick lap around your study spot before picking things back up – you’ll be more productive in the long run.

Practice self-care

Your body absorbs nutrients most efficiently when it’s taken care of. Just like finding time to eat a full meal and drink a full bottle of water, it’s important to find time for self-care.

Working in just 20 minutes of exercise into your study routine can help alleviate stress by increasing blood flow and releasing endorphins. Getting 7-9 hours of sleep nightly also helps to preserve your memory and immune function. Adopting these key habits can make you more effective at studying, writing, reading and retaining information.

Taking breaks can fuel you as well. Blow off steam with physical activity, find a sense of calm with meditation or get your mind off the stress by enjoying an activity with friends. Mental breaks give you much-needed time to refresh and reset. Plus, when you’re feeling refreshed, you’re more likely to make meaningful progress toward your goals.