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Surviving Finals…Using Your Own Brain Power
The final is tomorrow. It counts for 30 percent of your grade. You need to remember everything you supposedly learned all semester. And…it’s only one of four exams this week.
You’ve given up on sleep. There’s just no time. You keep cramming in the knowledge and hoping none of it falls out until after your test. After hundreds of pages, dozens of terms and definitions, dates, facts, equations, and more, you start to think it’s an impossible task.
It’s at this point that many are tempted to get a little extra “help.” When the brain gets bogged down, it’s tempting to do something to give it an extra boost. Some students turn to amphetamines, or speed. Although, they might not admit that’s what they are taking.
Adderall, Ritalin, Dexedrine, Modafinil – these drugs are prescribed for attention deficit disorders and narcolepsy, but they’re all classified as varying types of amphetamines. Students feeling pressure to get more done or be better-focused may pop these pills without a prescription.
What’s the big deal? Read on.
The Down Side of Uppers
Taking these “brain-enhancers” comes with several risks. Let’s look at a few of them:
- Unknown Ingredients
Buying something online or second-hand is a game of Russian roulette. You don’t really know what you’re going to get. There are no controls over what you are sent. This is a dangerous game.
- Developmental Damage
As young adults, our brains our still in development. Adding these drugs to a developing brain with no issues that would call for their prescription can be harmful. Very little research exists on long-term effects of these drug-use patterns. We’re not really sure what it does to your brain long-term.
- False Focus
These drugs can make you very focused, but on the wrong things. Students have reported spending five hours arranging music files or zoning in on a topic for an essay that created a very shallow finished paper. You may end up working very hard, but on the wrong problem. The drug is suppressing divergent thinking, which is an important part of intelligence.
- Physical Side Effects
Some of the physical problems that go along with using “brain” drugs can include stomach upset and headaches. Sitting in class with a pounding head and a stomach in agony probably isn’t the best way to ace your exams. Some users have also reported feeling anxious and depressed.
As with any drug, amphetamines can become a habit. You may start out using a few pills the week of finals, but before you know it, you’re on a slippery slope to using these “pick-me-up” drugs just to get going every day.
To avoid the risks associated with these “brain” drugs, why not go for natural methods? To survive finals (and any other stressors down the line) try the following tried and true tactics:
- Eat Brain Foods: Certain foods can improve your focus, help your memory, and keep you more alert. Try munching on apples, nuts, dark chocolate, blueberries, whole grain crackers, chickpeas, and onions.
- Switch it Up: Study in different locations. Move to the library for a session. Then, head to the coffee shop. Research shows that changing our environment helps us to remember more. It’s also helpful to change subjects; don’t spend the whole day on one prep. Go back and forth between courses to keep your brain engaged.
- Sleep: Yes, you are pressed for time and feel like you can’t afford to sleep. But your body needs it. You’ll focus better and recall more when you are well-rested. Take cat naps between chapter reviews and be sure to get a good night’s sleep before the test.
- Exercise: Amphetamines increase dopamine in the brain, but so does exercise. Get a natural high by going for a walk, dancing or lifting weights. You’ll get the same rush, but in a healthy way with the added benefit of good cardio. You’ll feel better, and maybe even look better!
ADDITIONAL READING: Surviving the Beating Heart of College Culture
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