Welcome to the Royal (Dick) Vet School’s second blog post from the Social Media Ambassador team. This week is written by Grace Lim, a second year vet student - #DickVetHijack
As exam week and the second year of vet school draws to a close, I am reminded of the importance of good mental health practices. Poor health habits have become so normalised that it seems everyone can be guilty of practicing these, and think nothing of joking about how little sleep their getting/how much coffee and junk food they’ve been consuming.
However, mental health often suffers as a result and students can feel unhappy with their university experience. One of the most essential skills that I’ve learned over the past two years is how to turn negative feelings of anxiety into positive motivation.
Exams are an unavoidable part of student life, and vets are certainly no different! Vet students tend to be perfectionists, but with our large and diverse course load, it’s almost impossible to know everything! This can unsettle some students as we walk into the exam hall, which negatively impacts our mental health as well as, sometimes, our test scores.
I would like to share several things that I’ve found useful to lift my mood and keep me inspired over this past week!
Use a study method that works for you both during term time and during revision week. Staying on top of things during the term makes me much better prepared and a lot more confident going into exam week. During revision week, I have found it useful to plan exactly what and when I’m going to revise beforehand. This ensures that I’ve covered all the material and keeps me from going into a panic as I know I’ve covered everything from virology to cardiology without running out of time!
Students can sacrifice their diet during revision; preferring to eat cheap, convenient foods that are often high in simple carbohydrates and saturated fats. Junk foods are delicious and offer a temporary spike in energy, but then lead to sluggishness and an energy crash later on. So sticking to a diet that contains plenty of fresh produce is important for both exam performance, and long term physical and mental health.
I find that cooking individual components in advance like pasta, red cabbage slaw, boiled eggs and storing them individually makes it easy to add other ingredients to form a quick salad!
I am guilty of depending on coffee to keep my energy levels up, and my stomach full so that I don’t have to waste time eating. But too much caffeine isn’t good so I try to drink water instead to help with brain function. Keeping hydrated helps my mental clarity, better focus and the formation of new memories.
Again, I am guilty of not getting enough sleep!
The brain consolidates memories during sleep. So while pulling an all-nighter might seem tempting the night before a big exam, in actual fact it will not do much good, leading to confusion, difficulty concentrating and difficulty recalling information.
Take a break. I have found that a short phone call to my parents or a simple lunch with friends does wonders to lift my mood. It reminds me that they will love and support me no matter what my exam performance is. As you can tell from the pictures, I love food! So meeting with friends often involves a good meal and kills two birds with one stone. My favourite study spots include Loudon’s Café in Fountainbridge and Hula Café in Grassmarket. They both offer tasty, healthy options and welcome students who are sitting in to study.
Taking a walk helps to clear my mind. I love admiring Edinburgh’s beautiful architecture. Exercise releases endorphins and improves circulation, meaning a better ventilated, high functioning brain!
Many students neglect themselves to focus on revision. Being kind to myself reminds me that exams are a part of life, and not that my life is about exams! Taking a shower, making a fresh cup of tea, or even painting my nails are all ways I remind myself that I am more important than my exam score.
Preferably in the company of good friends, and with an ice cream.