It is a myth that only 10 percent of the brain is used because when preparing for exams, more than 20 percent of the nerve cells in the midbrain is signaled to form memories. Your brain is the most important organ in your body and the center of your intelligence and character. You need to optimize your brain health and add extra power to accelerate its functions.
All your cognitive abilities, your memory power, problem-solving techniques, relationship, creative and learning skills reside in your brain. It is also the place where your stress and depression breeds.
Though genetics plays a vital role in brain power, you can empower your 3 pounds of an organ called ‘brain’ with certain brain food, brain exercises and some changes in your lifestyle.
Foods that can improve brain function
The brain uses 20-30% of the calories consumed. There are a few food items that can enhance your brain’s capacity to retain information and revitalize your memory power. They are termed as brain food and help increase the blood flow to the brain. These foods are actively used in the treatment of Alzheimer's and other dementias.
What food can be taken during exam days?
1. Choline-rich food
Choline is a memory-boosting compound present in plant and animal organs and is also produced in small quantity in our liver. Choline produces acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that regulates the brain volume, enriches memory power, enhances mood and impacts cognition.
Adults require around 500mg of choline per day in order to avoid negative consequences of deficiency, such as the liver and/or muscle damage. If you are a vegan, use soybean oil in cooking. Every 15ml contains 47.3mg of choline. Nuts, cauliflower, broccoli, egg, beef liver, and chicken liver are other rich sources of choline. Make your breakfast, the most important meal of your day and add choline-rich food to your platter. This will ensure your brain has the most important nutrient, to help boost your memory while preparing for exams.
2. Nuts for super minerals
Concentration is vital while preparing the most crucial exam of your life. If you could stay focused for long hours, it can improve your spatial memory performance. Nuts, especially walnut, cashew nut, and even the modest peanut is a super storehouse of important nutrients like magnesium, copper, iron, zinc, and omega3 that improve the brain health and help, keep you concentrated for a long period of time. Oily fishes like salmon and mackerel have a high concentration of omega3. Cod liver oil is a good omega3 supplement. Nuts are also a vital source of Vitamin E that optimize brain health.
3. Flavonoid-rich foods
The dietary flavonoids contain antioxidants that promote memory, learning and cognitive function. Flavonoid-rich foods such as blueberry, green tea, and cocoa have a positive impact on brain health and suppress neuroinflammation by increasing blood flow to the brain. There are many high flavanol cocoa supplements available in the market to boost your memory while burning the night oil. Phytonutrients in colorful fruits and vegetables are the best brain boosters because they not only control the blood sugar but also increase blood flow.
4. Reduce intake of high sugar food
While preparing for competitive exams, avoid sugar-loaded food that requires additional time and energy to digest, instead consume anti-oxidant rich fruits like bananas and blueberries to boost your brain’s performance. Avoid packaged fruit juices, sports drinks, flavored tea and coffee, cookies, chocolates and cakes that have added sugar, instead, go natural with fruits and vegetable salads that have natural sugar to provide enough energy. Avoid drinking and smoking, they create brain fog, making you vulnerable and irrational.
Lifestyle Change to improve brain function
1. Physical exercise
Positive changes in your lifestyle can also increase your brain power. Studies have shown that physical exercise calms your brain and combats high blood pressure and sugar levels which is crucial for boosting your immunity and enhancing your overall wellness. You do not have to hit the gym, just a few meters of cycling, jogging or a brisk walk in the open can rejuvenate your system and reenergize your senses. Your conscious mind becomes open to more insights.
Exercise releases serotonin in the brain which boosts your thinking and creative skills. This can be the ’eureka’ moment fired from the right hemisphere of the brain. Long hours of studies can sometimes make you dull, so why not take a walk for out of the box thinking.
2. Choose small meals
Carbohydrate-rich food like rice and potato can make you lazy and sleepy, so avoid them on your exam days. Eat more often throughout the day while preparing for your exam, this is another fun way to snap out of your routine. Always choose small meals instead of large ones because your brain will take less time to process them and it will be easy for your digestive system. Keep yourself hydrated, this will keep your body light and your brain alert and focused throughout the day. Heavy meals need more energy for digestion.
3. Limit screen time and Sleep well
You can improve the efficiency of your brain if you have good sleep. You should have a sleeping routine because this will tell your body’s biological clock to rest your brain and stay calm. Your brain will burn out if it does not get enough rest. Sleep well for 7-9 hrs to increase your brain capacity. Limit your screen time, avoid addiction to your phones, because this hampers your brain health.
Just like your body needs physical exercise, your brain too needs its daily dose of therapy called mindfulness meditation. This is a bespoke method for training your thoughts in order to reduce stress. Just a few minutes of this mind related routine can further your cognitive skills and enhance your concentration. This is one of the prominent features of positive psychology, that empowers your brain to keep calm and collected even at tough times.
Mind your thoughts, if it is negative, your heart rate increases, and your brain becomes anxious. Question your thoughts with mindfulness meditation and steer your thoughts toward positivity, which reflects in your overall wellness. Your brain relaxes, your blood pressure and sugar are in control and your brain is optimized.
5. Reduce stress
We all know that examination stress is unavoidable, but we can make some wilful decisions to reduce this stress. Stress is defined as “a physical or psychological stimulus, can evoke physiological reactions that may cause serious bodily dysfunctions”. While stress for short duration can increase your cognitive skills but when you are stressed for a long period of time, it leads to high heart rate, increase blood pressure and blood sugar level.
You can understand when you are stressed out. Symptoms like loss of sleep, mood swings, loss of appetite and feelings of worthlessness are signs of anxiety that can hamper your exam preparation. When you see these signs, talk to your family members. You may feel disillusioned and you need love and a little mentoring will help you relieve your stress because exams are part of life and not "life" itself. Prudent advice from seniors can help you re-strategize your study pattern and your goals in life.
Perhaps a thoughtful re-evaluation of your job goals and your passion can help you find the most suitable career path. Your stress will be reduced when you align your passion to your work and study life. Find your work profile through the most advanced brain tool like the psychometric test for mapping your personality with your cognitive skills and interests.
Your job profile is then matched to the most relevant profession where your talent and your working style is in high demand so that your work does not turn into the workload. Once you have a clear picture of your career, you can then decide on the best course and subjects that will help you achieve your dream career.
Many things change in life with time, so does your likes and dislikes, however, your inherent skills and your core personality remains the same. Do not let exam stress take the better of you.