Brain breaks strengthen studying

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study break:Senior Phillip Amstutz juggles during Assistant Professor of Education Amy Wintermantel?s PE Methods class Dec. 7 in Case Hall. The class has been discussing how movement impacts learning and how to incorporate brain breaks into study time.:Rachel Dannen

The week before winter break, otherwise known as finals week, is the time of year some students dread and a lot of students get stressed about preparing for and taking finals.

But for students who are feeling stressed and overwhelmed, there are some ways to overcome test anxiety.

Ruth Sarna, director of student health services, said one of the main things students can do to avoid stress is to avoid procrastinating.

"If the students have procrastinated, and then, all of a sudden, then they think they have to do an all-nighter, that's probably the worst thing you can ever do to your body," she said.

In order to avoid procrastination and having to pull an all-nighter, Sarna said staying on top of assignments is key. She also said other ways students can reduce stress include eating right, keeping a positive attitude and making sure they take time to take care of themselves.

One way students will be able to take some time for themselves during finals week is by attending the Stress Free Zone from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday in Harter Union. Sarna said students will be able to get head, neck and hand massages, paraffin hand dips and make stress balls.

But it's not just stress that affects students' performance on exams. The way students go about reviewing and preparing for their finals also plays a huge role in taking a test successfully.

Amy Wintermantel, assistant professor of education, has been teaching PE Methods this semester, and the class has been discussing how movement impacts learning and how to incorporate brain breaks into study time.

Brain breaks allow students to take a break from homework and studying to relax their brain, and body, in order to gear up for the next study session.

Wintermantel said students should incorporate 10 minutes of physical movement in between study sessions, because the increased oxygen flow from exercising raises the likelihood students will remember the material.

"Especially those times when concentrating is difficult ... we need to stop, give ourselves a brain break, get refocused and start again," she said.

Going into finals week, Wintermantel said it's also important to eat healthy, sleep, exercise and plan ahead for the week.

"If you can get eight hours of sleep every night through finals, eat healthy, and pop tarts are not healthy, and I would highly recommend even a brisk five to 10-minute walk before you go take your final," she said. "Then, set up a schedule for the rest of the week. I think (students) will be dazzled by their own brilliance if they just do that."

Senior Kate Kidd is in Wintermantel's PE Methods class and is really interested in the topic of brain breaks and thinks it is a good idea to do something active before studying and taking a final.

While the class is meant to teach education majors how to incorporate exercise into the classroom, Kidd said this concept could be applied to college students, too.

"After learning that these brain breaks are really helpful, I think that I will try to do some kind of activity before I study," she said. "I don't know if walking to class counts as getting your blood flowing, but I think it would be helpful to do something before and kind of help you concentrate more."

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