By Kayla Freeman, Contributor

Each year of university can feel like a new beginning, culminating in a gruelling session of final exams. Final exams are customarily used to test students’ comprehension of course material over the course of the semester. However, many students study for exams by cramming as much information as they can the week, or sometimes even the night before the final. This trend has birthed what is commonly dubbed ‘exam culture’. Habits such as pulling all-nighters and drinking excessive amounts of caffeine are shared on social media and amongst friends, sometimes in an attempt to justify these unhealthy behaviours. Promoting these behaviours amongst peers and friends by sharing your poor habits can cause students to believe that these practices are acceptable, or even commendable.

The realistic approach to approaching education, on social media and otherwise, is to understand the repercussions of these exam habits. Rather than shaming friends and followers across Instagram or Twitter, I opt to lead by example. Refusing to contribute or engage with this type of behaviour on the internet may dissuade friends from posting these habits online due to lack of engagement. Also, encouraging positive habits will hopefully have the same impact by influencing others to adopt improved means of coping during exam season.

After I finished my first year, I learned how to study for exams in a way that was not detrimental to my mental or physical well-being. Students are often overwhelmingly stressed during exam season, as due dates for final papers, projects and exams approach. This can lead to issues such as insomnia, anxiety and lower sleep quality. The stress felt during exam season can lead to poor sleep quality and push students to consume excessive amounts of caffeine.

It is easy to see that these habits that are built over the years of undergrad, or even high school, often translate into normalized behaviours that negatively impact both physical and mental health. I believe one of the biggest problems that students face today is that these poor habits are being shared across various social media platforms in an attempt to normalize them. Sharing your unhealthy habits can encourage others to follow these behaviours, which is harmful.

It is easy to see that these habits that are built over the years of undergrad, or even high school, often translate into normalized behaviours that negatively impact both physical and mental health.

Often, I see students compete on social media about who stays up the latest, who drinks the most caffeine or who buys the most snacks. When these mindsets are shared online, they become accessible and may incite a trend, leading others to partake or post similar photos or videos. Along with this, it has become increasingly common to see students indulging in unhealthy foods, easily accessible via UberEats or other delivery methods.

This can be dangerous, especially during exam season when these poor habits often are used as distractions from studying and can lead to a mentally and physically vulnerable state.

Overall, exam season is a time when students are most at risk in terms of their health. Rather than normalizing poor behaviours by posting about your unhealthy habits online, it is more beneficial for these behaviours surrounding studying to be called out and given direction. If we all begin to conform and assimilate to “exam culture,” it will simply lead to more harm for students.

During the upcoming semester, it is essential to address and confront negative habits that cause more harm than good. It is also imperative to understand personal limits, rather than conform to the habits of the crowd. Through knowing and understanding individual capacities, poor habits can be substituted for more healthy ones. Investing time in discovering new and improved coping strategies for stress management may encourage students to prioritize their health alongside studies and education.

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