Strategies for a Successful End of Semester

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

In academics as with many other aspects of life, successful performance requires a series of steps over time that may or may not appear to be connected.

With multiple deadlines,  projects, exams,  etc all due around the same time; the end of the semester can be a high stress time for students.

Luckily there are a series of science-backed strategies that students can apply to be their best physically, mentally, cognitively, and emotionally to maximize chances of academic success.

What health related activities should I INCREASE my chances of academic success at the end of the semester?

Here are 5 things to increase:

  1. Improve your sleep because poor sleep and poor grades go together (with resources to improve sleep):

http://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2017/12/31/poor-sleep-and-poor-grades-might-go-together/

  1. Fruit and vegetable consumption improves mental/emotional well-being:

http://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2015/03/25/fruits-and-vegetables-might-increase-your-odds-of-mental-well-being/

  1. Consider adding these brainpower boosting foods: http://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2015/04/30/food-for-academic-brain-power/
  2. Consider Practicing gratitude exercises to feel better fast: http://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2018/05/31/gratitude-exercises-to-feel-better-fast/
  3. Improve stress management: http://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2017/09/01/dealing-with-too-much-stress/

What health related activities should I DECREASE to improve my chances of academic success at the end of the semester?

Here are 5  things to decrease:

  1. Too much caffeine worsens stress level and brain function:

http://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2017/04/19/study-caffeine-stress-and-brain-function/

  1. Excessive digital media usage can worsen inattention symptoms:

http://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2018/08/30/digital-media-and-inattention-symptoms/

  1. Reduce/avoid alcohol intake because it can impact your academic performance:

http://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2018/02/26/alcohol-and-grades/

http://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2017/06/21/study-alcohol-might-cause-brain-changes/

  1. Cannabis can negatively impact your brain:

http://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2014/11/17/marijuana-4-hidden-costs-to-consider/

  1. Nicotine use can increase depression and anxiety:

http://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2015/04/15/does-smoking-increase-anxiety-and-depression-if-i-quit-will-i-feel-better/

Additional resources if your functioning is limited by your mental health, or if you need additional help:

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

 

Poor sleep and poor grades might go together

College students might stay up late or have an erratic sleep schedule for a variety of reasons.

A recent study looked at the impact of sleep pattern on grades.

Who was studied? (1,2)

  • 61 undergraduate students at Harvard college
  • They were asked to keep a sleep diary for 30 days.

What did the investigators find? (1,2)

Compared to peers, students reporting irregular patterns of sleep and wakefulness had:

  • Lower grade point averages.
  • Delays in the times people went to bed and woke up compared to more normal sleep/wake times.
  • Upto 3 hour delay in melatonin (sleep related hormone) release compared to students with regularly scheduled sleep and wakefulness pattern.

What are some caveats?

  • Poor sleep can impact almost every aspect of health and many parts of brain functioning, including learning, remembering, mood, energy level, decision making, etc.
  • This is a small study and does not prove cause-and-effect (2).
  • Students with erratic sleep schedules ended up sleeping the same number of hours as those with a regular sleep schedule. (1,2).
  • Study participants might have an erratic sleep schedule for a variety of reasons.

What are some ways of improving sleep?

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine suggests the following ways to improve sleep (3):

  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule.
  • Get up at the same time every day, even on weekends or during vacations.
  • Plan to get at least 7 hours of sleep.
  • Don’t go to bed unless you are sleepy.
  • If you don’t fall asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed.
  • Establish a relaxing bedtime routine.
  • Use your bed only for sleep and sex.
  • Make your bedroom quiet and relaxing. Keep the room at a comfortable, cool temperature.
  • Limit exposure to bright light in the evenings.
  • Turn off electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bedtime.
  • Don’t eat a large meal before bedtime. If you are hungry at night, eat a light, healthy snack.
  • Exercise regularly and maintain a healthy diet.
  • Avoid consuming caffeine in the late afternoon or evening.
  • Avoid consuming alcohol before bedtime.
  • Reduce your fluid intake before bedtime.

Anything else?

  • Some people may need to eliminate caffeine or alcohol completely.
  • If you have to use electronics in the evenings, consider BLUEBLOCKERS.

Consider seeking professional help:

OSU Counseling and Consultation Service

OSU Wilce Student health center

https://ccs.osu.edu/self-help/sleep/

How is your sleep? How are your grades?

By R. Ryan Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

References:

  1. https://consumer.healthday.com/sleep-disorder-information-33/misc-sleep-problems-news-626/poor-sleep-habits-61-poor-grades-723563.html
  2. Phillips AJK, Clerx WM, O’Brien CS, et al. Irregular sleep/wake patterns are associated with poorer academic performance and delayed circadian and sleep/wake timing. Scientific Reports. 2017;7:3216. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-03171-4.
  3. http://www.sleepeducation.org/essentials-in-sleep/healthy-sleep-habits

 

Mental Health Benefits of Leisure Activities

The previous blog discuss stress management (1). Today’s post talks about the benefits of play and leisure activities on mental health.

A recent study of college students showed that academic stress was associated with negative emotion, and leisure activities engagement was associated with positive emotion (2).

A large scale study looked at impact on psychological and physical well-being from specific types of leisure activities (3).

What is leisure?

The study authors defined leisure as pleasurable activities that individuals engage in voluntarily when they are free from the demands of work or other responsibilities (2).

Who was studied (3)?

1399 individuals, 74% female, age = 19–89 years.

What was measured? (3)

  • Self-report measure (Pittsburgh Enjoyable Activities Test (PEAT))
  • Participation in ten different types of leisure activities (described below)
  • Measures of positive and negative psychosocial states.
  • Blood pressure
  • The stress hormone, cortisol (over 2 days), and other factors.

What were the results? (3)

Enjoyable leisure activities are associated with:

  • Lower levels of depression and negative affect
  • Improved positive, physical and psychosocial states

What are some types of leisure activities from the study (3)?

  • Spending quiet time alone
  • Spending time unwinding;
  • Visiting others
  • Eating with others
  • Doing fun things with others
  • Clubs/fellowship, and religious group participation;
  • Vacationing
  • Communing with nature
  • Sports
  • Hobbies

What are some caveats?

  • Compared to previous studies looking at single factors, this is a large scale study looking at many different leisure activities and its benefits on health and well being.
  • The study authors discuss the importance of healthy lifestyle habits (healthy eating habits, healthy exercise, relaxation skills, healthy sleep habits, etc.), avoiding harmful habits (smoking, drug use, excessive alcohol, etc); and leisure activities as tools to improve physical and emotional health (3).
  • This balance might vary from person to person.

Different people might benefit from different types of play. What type of play is best for you?

Are there any campus resources on play?

Any other useful resources on campus?

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

References:

  1. http://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2017/09/01/dealing-with-too-much-stress
  2. Zhang J, Zheng Y.  How do academic stress and leisure activities influence college students’ emotional well-being? A daily diary investigation.

    J Adolesc. 2017 Oct;60:114-118. doi: 10.1016/j.adolescence.2017.08.003. Epub 2017 Aug 23.
  3. Pressman, S. D, et. al. Association of Enjoyable Leisure Activities With Psychological and Physical Well-Being.  Psychosomatic Medicine: September 2009 – Volume 71 – Issue 7 – pp 725-732 doi: 10.1097/PSY.0b013e3181ad7978