How to feed your brain

The end of the spring semester is approaching here at Texas Tech and the preparation for finals begins for many students. There are many ways to cater to the mind and prepare for the exams and assignments to come.

Alison Childress, a clinical dietitian and assistant professor in the Department of Nutritional Sciences at Tech, said that creating a healthy diet routine benefits students studying for the end of semester.

“Definitely eat regularly, preferably three times a day but you know if possible even maybe five times a day. Having that infusion of glucose every few hours will help with our stamina” Childress said. “That will help a lot. So definitely eat often and spread it out.”

Childress stresses the importance of drinking enough water throughout the day. She says students should have an equal amount of water for every caffeinated drink they consume to stay properly hydrated and healthy.

“Most of us are chronically dehydrated and so whenever we are not hydrated properly, our brain is not functioning well,” Childress said. 

Childress emphasizes dietary choices such as carbohydrates and micronutrients in fueling the brain to keep the mind and body active and stimulated. 

“Our brains preferred fuel is glucose, and glucose comes from carbohydrates. So this is certainly not a time to go on a low carb diet or try to restrict carbohydrates,” Childress said. “Your brain needs those for fuel.’

Childress said students should make sure to get enough carbohydrates throughout the day, specifically those high in nutrients like fruits, vegetables and whole grains, to stay healthy and focused. 

“So even some dairy carbohydrates, like Greek yogurt are also good. So we want to make sure that we’re getting plenty of carbohydrates for the brain,” Childress said. 

John Purcell, counselor on staff at the Student Counseling Center and MindSpa coordinator, said addressing mental health reduces the high stress levels during these times.

“Just taking care of our holistic health is going to be helpful” Purcell said. “Oftentimes we don’t realize that we carry a lot of stress in our bodies. And so while we’re focusing on tests or whatever is happening, the stress response in the body primes us to respond to threats, and it does it in the same way that it does physical threats versus threats such as tests or final projects.”

Purcell recommends focusing on time management to avoid cramming information and allow the mind to take much needed breaks.

“I would recommend that people be deliberate and intentional with how they spend their time with studying”, Purcell said. “Have structured time to study but also make sure that you take breaks. Our mind is not able to retain big blocks of information”

Purcell recommends students take frequent breaks while studying and get enough sleep every night to keep their brains healthy.   

“Try to keep study sessions down to an hour and 90 minutes. Not letting yourself kind of get too locked into that without giving the mind breaks”, Purcell said. 

Claudia Hernandez, a leading advisor at the Learning Center, highlights studying techniques to keep the mind prepared and ready for finals. 

“Make sure that you have all of your study materials created so that it’s going to be things like flashcards, study guide that you make yourself. Concept maps, summaries of the information you’re learning, practice problems pulled from past, study guides or maybe the internet or your friends. Create those materials so that you have all of that set for the days leading up to your exam.”

Hernandez said campus resources and help from others are a great way to get interactive help to alleviate pressure on the mind.

“I think that the tutoring support is probably most beneficial for them during finals and exams” Hernandez said. “It’s just being able to talk it out with someone, because maybe when they’re sitting alone, they’re not getting that partner help. They’re not getting that support if they have a question in the moment. 

Hernandez said students should take advantage of review and tutoring sessions so they can ask important questions and get additional support from peers and teacher. 

“Take advantage of peer review sessions, residential tutoring, academic coaching and meeting with your professors for office hours. Really take advantage of your campus resources,” Hernandez said. 

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