My sister says, “When I’m on my period I just feel like taking a six hour nap.” If this sounds like you, don’t worry, you are definitely not alone. Every single month, we girls have to endure emotional turns and physical pains. It is difficult to bring ourselves to do anything – let alone study and do work – and so, we decidedly cuddle up in our beds instead.
But in reality you just really have to study because, let’s face it, exams are next week and you have an essay due tomorrow. Life goes on! But ‘just study’ isn’t exactly the best advice someone to give…Below are six, detailed ways you can study that take into consideration the fact that you’re not feeling your best.
Record Yourself to Obtain an Audio File to Study
When you’re on your period, you want to make studying as painless as possible. Pre-recording yourself talk about certain topics or ideas will allow you to click a button and listen away. This can be done anywhere and any time, even on that crowded bus ride home. This removes the hassle of needing to take out bulky notebooks and random pieces of paper, and the need to read, making studying much more convenient and simpler.
Recording yourself explain a topic engages your brain in something called active recall. By extension, this helps you engage in active learning. The act of recording yourself forces you to use your own words and ensures you truly understand something. Alternatively, you can listen to podcasts or watch videos that teach the same concept if you don’t have the time to record your own audio file. What is more important is that you try to repeat and explain it back to yourself after listening or watching such videos. Some recommendations are Khan Academy and CrashCourse. Most JCs also record their lectures and post them on their respective online platforms, so you can also go back and watch your school’s videos that specifically cater to you!
This is especially suitable for subjects that require explanation of topics or ideas (like the Humanities or certain Science subjects like Biology). These subjects are very content heavy, and hence are more suitable for audio filing where pen and paper are not as crucial as in a subject like Mathematics.
Reward Yourself More By Time-Input, Not Work-Output
Another reason we find work so painful is because we measure productivity by how much we complete. Hence, we end up only feeling that sense of accomplishment after we complete an entire piece of work. Worse still, we might find ourselves feeling accomplishment conditionally – you only feel accomplished if your work gets you a certain grade.
Instead of rewarding yourself when you finish something, try rewarding yourself for the amount of time you put in. By changing your reward system to one that is based on time-input (“I will give myself a gummy bear after fifteen minutes”) rather than work-output (“I will give myself a gummy bear after I finish this entire tutorial”), we allow ourselves to have a secure, definite end goal in mind. And this end-goal can be as simple as possible. “I will reward myself after five minutes of work”, and you will find yourself doing more than that!
You then can feel like you are in control of your work, because you can control the amount of time and effort you put in, rather than rely on how much work you can generate. Moreover, you don’t have to wait until you finish an entire practice paper before you can reward yourself. Feeling productive is just as important as how productive you are – emotions heavily influence how our brains work. Rewards make you feel good, and your brain attaches these emotions to the action you are doing. So by feeling good, we are essentially encouraging our brains to study more. This is known as a positive feedback loop.
We all complain about how we are never rewarded for the effort we put in because it isn’t reflected in our results…but why do we never reward ourselves for that effort in our own way?
Deep Work vs Shallow Work
Cal Newport, a productivity guru, theorised that there are two types of work that we do: deep work and shallow work. Deep work is the type that engages heavily with cognitive work – for a student such work might be writing an essay or learning a new topic. Shallow work, on the other hand, requires less cognitive combat, perhaps replying emails, summarising topics or reviewing topics you are already familiar with. And what’s important is knowing that both types of work are equally important when studying. While it might be difficult to do deep work when you’re on your period, there is plenty you can do that might require less intense studying.
On your period, you can try to schedule yourself to engage in tasks that are ‘shallow work’ in nature. Rather than writing an essay, try scaffolding it out. If your notes are all over the place, create summaries or simplify your notes. File your worksheets! Engage with activities that might require organization, design (PW projects, anyone), rephrasing, etc.
Alternatively, you can make deep work more manageable – if you have to finish an entire math paper, plan ahead and do only one question a day, rather than forcing yourself to do 3 hours in a single sitting. If you can’t bring yourself to write that GP summary, highlight all the points that you want to include in it and write it down without paraphrasing. You can go back to it later and paraphrase that one paragraph you copied without having to go back and forth in the text. Break down ‘deep work’ activities into smaller steps that make it more manageable, and more like shallow work.
Make a Period Self-Care Pack! Make Yourself Happy
It’s always nice to have self-care packs! It can be anything you want – snacks, a soft toy companion, stickers, a curated music playlist to listen to. Bring a study buddy! Make studying as enjoyable an experience as possible.
Putting this in a practical perspective, a period self-care pack is extremely useful when all the essentials for a period are included; this includes packing extra shorts, pads, tampons, Panadol pills, ziplock bags, etc. Having all of these items on standby ensures that you have everything you need. This saves you a lot of time you would spend asking all your friends for pads, or going down to the school office to borrow an extra uniform. These things can waste a lot of time and derail your studying goals.
(And let’s be real: self-care packs make us happy).
Image Credit to: 4amshower (Instagram)
Another pro tip: did you know regular Panadol and ‘special Panadol’ targeted for menstrual pains are actually almost identical? There has been a lot of research in various countries, revealing that they have almost the same exact ingredient list. But if you’re really picky about it and believe the slight differences matter, just make sure you do not take Panadol for your head and shoulders, and another one for your cramps. This may lead to an overdose, equivalent to ingesting twice the amount of paracetamol. Paracetamol, the main ingredient in Panadol, is a general pain killer, and is not targeted for any specific part of your body. So taking one dose of one particular kind is enough for the pain all around your body.
Revise in the Familiar, Study the Familiar
Studying is an experience, just like every other thing that we do in life. Our brain stores our experiences and forms associations with everything that we do, with what we feel and how we tackled a situation.
If you’re in a particularly bad mood, don’t add that extra emotional experience ‘baggage’ to difficult topics. Unpleasant emotional associations will form in your brain with the topic you are studying at hand, making it seem even harder than it actually might be. If you need to study for an exam, focus on the most familiar topics for yourself first. Topics that are more familiar to the brain already have their own set of associations that your brain relies on and brings forth when studying.
However, if that isn’t an option, do your work in an environment where you are usually most productive and/or emotionally happy. This tricks your brain into thinking it is in a studying mood, or is feeling fine. A familiar environment that is associated with studying and/or good experiences has been proven to produce similar moods when you return to that same environment. (I mean, isn’t that why you immediately fall asleep when you try studying on your bed?)
Take the Nap (or more breaks)
Talking about sleeping when you try studying on your bed… take the nap. Sleep has been proven to help you create those neurone links in your brain, retain memory, and help you have a clearer mind for later in the day!
And give yourself breaks! Don’t just go scroll through Instagram, but take a walk, or use it to dispel any negative emotions you have. In F1 races, cars go to pit stops to recharge and refuel. In Pokemon, you go to Pokemon Centers to restore your Pokemon’s health. So why in our lives do we neglect this idea of rest, especially when we most need it? Breaks ensure that your brain is well-rested for the next thing you have to tackle. The most famous way of taking breaks is using the Pomodoro Technique shown below.
Image credit to: Fractus Learning
If you think you can never get yourself to go back to studying after taking a nap, use a commitment device. A commitment device is a means in which you can find motivation from external factors. During your break, give all your money to a friend. If you don’t get back to work, or finish a certain piece of work by a certain time…she gets to keep it all. You can read more on commitment devices here.
There’s always a way to do it if you set your mind to it! But in any case, don’t worry and don’t be too hard on yourself! Chin up, periods will come to pass in a few days. We get used to it.