How Not to Live your Life

 

Student Life - Jas Poole Photos

“Student Life” ?Jas Poole Photos

 

Ok, maybe that’s a bit melodramatic?! Let’s call it, what not to do during exam time (especially if you are studying nutrition and should know better!).

 

 

Last week was the end of quite an intense few weeks of assignments and exams. I’ve loved everything I’ve learnt this semester and I look forward to putting it all into practice, but I do think I could have looked after myself a bit better during this time – and I’m sure there’s a few of us in the same boat! I guess I’m quite competitive when it comes to study – mainly against myself, if that makes sense?! I have a need to do as much as I can to prepare for assignments, exams, whatever, so I know I’ve done the best I can. That way even if I fail I know there’s nothing more I could have done. Apparently, many Hashi’s kids are “type A” personalities, with a strong work ethic and a desire to achieve perfection. I wouldn’t exactly call myself type A, but I think it’s important to give whatever I do everything I’ve got.

 

 

When I was a student at the normal student age (you know, late teens to early 20’s), I really only had studying to focus on, plus a job working in a pub, or as an assistant, nothing that really required that much of my attention.?This time around, I have a mortgage to pay, so I’m working 2 days a week in a job that I really enjoy, but I certainly need to have my brain switched on for it and it can be challenging at times! I also teach English as a volunteer once a week and try to manage my Hashimoto’s as best I can, which is pretty much a full time job! Compared to what many other people have going on in their lives it’s not a lot, but part of managing Hashimoto’s for me is knowing my physical and mental limits.

 

 

 

The end result of not looking after myself as well as I could have during the run up to and during exams has been the development of cold-like symptoms that have lingered for 3 weeks (and that I still have!)…so for the last 3 weeks, including the last 2 weeks of exams, I’ve felt below par, rundown and at less than my most intelligent! Focusing on study to the exclusion of everything else has really not worked out for me, so for future reference (yours and mine – probably more mine!), here’s what not to do during exam time:

 

 

Fail to Prepare:

I love making yummy meals and snacks to eat, and it’s very rare now that I buy anything pre-prepared. This does require a little extra time and consideration but that’s not usually a problem for me as good nutrition and good food is now one of my main focuses.

Coming up to exam time with study taking priority, what I should have done was bulk prepared some nutritious meals to keep in the fridge and freezer and stocked up on nutritious staples, like nuts, quinoa, eggs, etc ?so when I am really snowed under with college work I will still have something quick to prepare and healthy to eat. Everyone knows that, right?!

What did I actually do? Leave eating til the last minute, either just as I was running out the door in the morning or at 8pm at night, meaning I would often have just a handful of nuts and half a banana for breakfast and some yoghurt with berries and more nuts and banana for dinner – and that’s really not enough, is it? I often ended up buying lunch, which I would make sure was “healthy” but it’s still not as good as homemade and cost more. Fail!

 

 

Stop Exercising:

I love yoga and pilates and try to do 3 classes a week. I just feel happier and more relaxed after a class and that filters down into my every day life, helping things run more easily. So you’d think I’d have looked at my “study schedule” (ha – more on that later!) to maintain 3 classes a week, maybe check out a couple of Youtube videos I could do at home as back up? Well, yes, that’s what I should have done.

What I actually did was just cut out the yoga and pilates for about 4 weeks before and during exams – oh dear. I definitely felt the effects of neglecting this area of my life, stiff muscles, neck and shoulder aches and just a lack of the balance that I feel I usually have in my life.

 

 

Don’t Cancel Non-urgent Commitments:

I love teaching English at our local library, it’s just 1 and 1/2 hrs a week plus an hour or so preparing for the class. It’s not a lot of time out of my week, but I know that if I’d have asked for cover for the 2 weeks during exams I could have focused on study without worrying about what else I had coming up and whether I had time to fit it all in. 2-3 hours gained here could also have given me time to do a bit of yoga, or even just go for a walk around the park. A bit of mental health space!

 

 

Don’t Get Enough Sleep:

Why do I always do this?! Sleep is like a wonder drug, it’s amazing what our bodies do whilst we’re asleep. Cell repair, inflammation reduction, it’s all really important stuff and yet what I tend to do is stay up studying until past the time my body has told me it’s time to go to bed. What is my brain actually retaining by that point?! Not a lot I’m sure, but I tell myself, “I’ll just read one more chapter…” when what I should actually do is GO TO BED!

For me, 8- 9 hours is best, for others it might be less, but I’m sure we all know what works for us. I definitely need to make a commitment to my health to sleep enough, and that’s whether I’m studying or not.

 

 

Introduce a Problematic Food Back Into Your Diet:

Yes…..why would anyone do this?! So, if you’ve ready previous posts you’ll know that I stopped eating gluten to help manage my Hashimoto’s (you can read about that here), and this has worked really well, so why on Earth did I decide to test myself and see if I could eat gluten without ill effects – just before exams were due to start? Well, I have a number of excuses, it was my boyfriend’s birthday….and umm….we went for dinner with friends to a Turkish restaurant (that I have avoided since giving up gluten)….that err….has the most delicious, fresh made bread and dips (hence the avoidance since giving up gluten!)….and I thought, what’s the harm?

Well! Immediately my stomach blew up like a beachball (I showed the whole table, so you can ask them if you don’t believe me!) and from then on it was pretty much all downhill healthwise.

The cold-like symptoms I’ve been having for the last 3 weeks I personally put down to my immune system overreacting to the gluten in my system. I’ve had muscle aches, mucus build up, puffiness, extreme tiredness, all the same symptoms I had very frequently before being diagnosed with Hashi’s and giving up gluten. Being back there wasn’t fun, so I won’t be trying the experiment anytime soon – or if I do I’ll make sure I have a lot of spare time on my hands!

 

 

Don’t Keep a Schedule of Assignments and Exams:

It would be such a sensible thing to do, to keep a schedule of all your exams and assignments, so you know what’s coming up when, right? Do other people do this? Well, I didn’t (what was I thinking?!). I will do next time.

Over the Easter holidays, because I hadn’t written down all the due dates in a sensible orderly manner, I thought I had an extra week in which to complete 3 assignments. So off we happily went, driving up to Byron to spend some time with friends for a week, knowing I would still have a week when we got back to complete the assignments.

I think it was on the first day of the trip (joyous day that was!) that I realised I had badly miscalculated and I actually had to hand in my first assignment the day after we arrived back home and 2 more on the Wednesday.

So yes, we still had a lovely time with our friends, but I also had to try to squirrel myself away for a few hours to try to complete at least the first assignment. Which I did. But unsurprisingly I only just scraped a pass and that is not at all the purpose of me taking this course, I want to learn as much as I possibly can and you don’t do that by being disorganised. So er, yes, next time I will have an assignment and exam schedule all mapped out from day 1 so I know exactly what is due when…and hopefully no more scraping through!

 

 

Increase Caffeine Intake:

Silly, silly, silly me! I know coffee isn’t that great for me, it gives me false energy when what I actually need is rest and sets up a whole cycle of relying on a cup of coffee every morning just to wake me up. I know some people aren’t affected that much by caffeine – lucky them! – but although I absolutely love coffee, it’s best for me if I just have one cup a day at weekends. So what do I do during exam time? Get into that habit of having a coffee every day, sometimes 2.

Yes, I know no one died, but for me when increased caffeine intake is coupled with not getting enough sleep, a Hashi’s flare due to the (brief) reintroduction of ?gluten and a strict study schedule it triggers a downward spiral.

Luckily, exam time is only a 2 week period and as soon as they were over I cut out the caffeine again and slept more but before my Hashi’s diagnosis I was using caffeine as a crutch to just get me through the day not realising it was probably doing more harm than good.

 

 

So exam time is over now and I have a learnt a lot! Not just about nutrition, anatomy and chemistry, but about how to run my life and not let it run me. I will be more organised next time, I’ll have my eyes open, knowing what I need to do and what I need to not do. Really, at my advanced age, I probably should have already have known all these things, but it’s never to late to learn, right?!

 

 

If you have any study tips – or things not to do! – ?please comment below, and thanks for reading! xx

 

 

(picture credit: Jas Poole Photos?- and that’s my gorgeous sister in the photo :)?)

Kirstie