In case you missed it, we’re doing a two-part series - Nutrition and Lifestyle - on ways to mentally and physically prepare yourself for the school year ahead. In last week’s edition, we examined the best ways to improve your cognitive ability through diet and nutrition. This week, we’re discussing lifestyle practices you can build into your routine to help you overcome the unexpected curveballs of a hectic ‘back to school’ schedule.
Focus on Food
We talked about ways to improve your nutrition, now let’s discuss ways to implement these new changes. As we mentioned, a diet rich in fiber, phytonutrients, probiotics, healthy fats, and antioxidants supports a healthy gut and functioning brain. Let’s incorporate these foods into your routine without adding any extra hassle.
- Buy in bulk. Buying foods in bulk will save you money in the long run and reduces the hassle of frequent grocery store visits. Head to Sams, Costco, or even Target where you can purchase high fiber foods in bulk including legumes, oats, and quinoa. These stores also offer chia seeds, flax seeds, and mixed nuts - rich sources of healthy fats and antioxidants.
- Sign up for community-supported agriculture (CSA). CSA’s connect consumers with local farmers and vendors. Often they’ll deliver a box of fruits and vegetables (excellent sources of phytonutrients) each week right to your door! Talk about saving time. Plus, since the produce is seasonal, it tends to be fresher and richer in nutritional value. When produce is stored for an extended period, certain nutrients like Vitamin C, Vitamin A, and the B vitamins decline with exposure to light, air, and heat.1
- Take the time to meal prep. Take a few hours every weekend to prepare your meals for the week ahead. Yes, it may take a couple of hours away from your Sunday, but it will save you from laboring in the kitchen throughout the week.
We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again - sleep is essential for a productive daily routine. Poor sleep affects energy levels, contributes to overeating, and may even worsen memory. We can’t emphasize enough the importance of getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night, so here are a few tips to help you achieve your nightly dose of sound sleep.
- Enjoy your last cup of coffee before 2 pm. Consuming caffeine up to six hours before bedtime can prevent you from falling asleep and disrupt your shut-eye.2
- Shut down electronics 2-3 hours before bed. The blue light emitted from electronics suppresses the secretion of melatonin - a hormone that regulates circadian rhythm.3
- Make sure you’re optimized in Vitamin D and magnesium. Low levels of vitamin D are linked to decreased sleep time, reduced sleep efficiency, and increased daytime sleepiness. Magnesium helps relax muscles and calm nerves which facilitates sleep. People with adequate magnesium tend to sleep better. InsideTracker gives you insight into both of these biomarkers and provides personalized recommendations on how to improve them.
- Stick to a regular schedule. Aim to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day to help regulate your sleep cycle.
We learn new information throughout every day, especially as students, but unless we do something with it, we’ll forget it. According to the forgetting curve, if you do nothing with new information you learn (repeat it, study it, think about it, etc.), you will forget 50-80% of it by the second day.4 Instead of staying up late to cram the night before a big test or presentation, we’ve compiled some tips to help you master your memory.
- Review new information later that same day. For example, if you learned about a new topic in class or meeting, spend sometime later that night to review the material. As you continue to learn new information each day, work backward reviewing the latest information first then re-reviewing notes from previous lectures or meetings.
- Practice active recall. Active recall is an effective way of learning. Instead of reading your notes, test yourself. Pretend someone asked you an important question and practice by explaining it out loud. Experts say active recall helps consolidate information into your long-term memory.5
- Take breaks. It’s important to give your mind a rest by taking breaks while you study. Set a timer - take a 10-minute break for every 45 minutes of studying. Do some yoga stretches or take a short walk to get your head out of the books.
Arrange for Activity
It’s easy to get caught up in a hectic routine, but that shouldn’t be an excuse for skipping exercise. Make exercise a priority by scheduling it in each day. Exercise will keep stress down and energy levels up. Here are a few tips to help you arrange your activity.
- Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Find time in the day to exercise. Wake up an extra hour early to get your workout done first thing in the morning or squeeze it into your lunch break.
- Incorporate more movement into your routine. Bike to work, take the stairs instead of the elevator, park your car in the furthest parking spot. Adding more activity throughout the day will keep you active and energized.
- Buddy up. Use friends and family for motivation to exercise. Join a running or walking group, attend fitness classes with friends, or just play with the kids in the park to stay active.
Focus on implementing these changes to complement your routine instead of complicating it. Improve your meal routine by buying in bulk, joining a CSA, or meal prepping on the weekends. Prioritize your sleep and exercise to keep your energy levels up, and take a few minutes each day to review new information. That’s a wrap on our Back to School - Nutrition and Lifestyle editions; we hope these tips help make your routine as productive as possible.
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- How to Naturally Improve Your Digestive Health
(5) Cowan, Nelson. Chapter 20 What are the differences between long-term, short-term, and working memory?. pp. 323–338. doi:10.1016/s0079-6123(07)00020-9