The super-long Diwali weekend has been a good break and I thought for a change I’d use my desk at home to do a post on the all the small niggles here and there that keep popping up through the comments. I hope you guys used the break well 🙂
An afternoon slot for a morning person!
The admit cards are out and I once again I have gotten a city other than Mumbai, this time it is Pune and not Nashik like it was the time before, and it is an afternoon slot. It goes without saying half of the test-takers will have got an afternoon slot so, as Sheldon would say, it should not have come as a surprise.
But the question is what do we do now that you are supposed to be in prime test-taking mode from 2:30 to 5:30 and until now you have been taking tests in the morning? How do you beat the usual sluggishness in the afternoon and is it possible to go from sluggishness to full alertness?
The reason for our sluggishness is not as much as time slot as much as the fact that we have lunch around between 1 and 2, post which the whole body is focussed on one thing — digesting your food, your body is also heavier because you have just eaten and it is also satiated, all of these things put together are giving you a signal to relax and close your eyes for a while — a 180 minute test is the last thing on your mind (Those of you who attended my LMTC workshops would have noticed that I did not eat anything during the day except having copious amounts of black coffee, the main reason was that I did not want to feel sluggish even for a bit)
So there are a few things that you can do to ensure that you are switched in the slot.
- Firstly, do not have a heavy breakfast, eat some fruits and nuts or a light breakfast (idli/poha as opposed to paratha/dosa) in a slightly smaller quantity along with a (morning) beverage of your choice, an 60 to 90 minutes after you are up or whenever you feel slightly hungry
- Have a big meal between 11 to 12, it should have sufficient protein, and a certain amount of carbs as well — for vegetarians (given my limited knowledge) something like rajma-chawal will work best, for non-vegetarians nothing better than rice/roti with some egg curry and veggies (three eggs along with the yellow) since it is the lightest protein. This meal should hold you till 5:30, you can figure out the right portion size in a week. of experimentation.
- All of you should get the Brahmi capsules as it is excellent for alertness and immunity at the same time (I do not sleep well and wake up groggy, that is when I started taking it). Carry a capsule or two along with you and pop before you have to leave your bag and go into the lab.
- In the lead up to the test, take as many tests as you can in the afternoon slot while following this schedule
- Those of you who are working might find it tough to execute the mealtime but am sure if you really use put your head to it you can make it happen (just tell your colleagues you are doing intermittent fasting.
What diet should I have?
I was surprised to get a query around the kind of diet one should have but then I also remember that on Saturday I was talking to my colleague about physical fitness for test-taking, so in a way, the question is very relevant.
I will try to answer the question from whatever little reading I have done and whatever experiments that I have done with respect to diet and I will try to keep it really simple. This is something that everyone can take up irrespective of the slot.
Food can help you feel two ways, one — extremely happy, satisfied, heavy, and ready to hit the sack, which is what happens when you have food that you and maybe most people really like such as biriyanis, desserts (you get the drift). This state after this is perfect to watch something silly while lying down and going off to sleep, I have done and still do my share of this.
The other thing that I have also done is have phases where food made me feel another way — nourished and light, exactly the way one feels after eating some fruit.
Given that all of you want to crack the third or fourth toughest test in the world (JEE, UPSC, Gaokao) I suppose you know which one of the two options you are supposed to choose.
So just eat a certain amount of fresh foods (fruits and nuts) and food that is not fried, overtly spicy, and oily (the non-vegetarians, please savour the meat and eat smaller portions), basically whatever your mom made in moderate quantities.
Also, stop eating when you are just about three-fourths full do not crave for the feeling of heaviness. I have found that even milk makes me feel heavy or rather makes me aware of my gut and I hence cut it out of my system, you should try it as well.
And yeah, no snacks, at all, nothing out of a plastic packet, they don’t just make you feel heavy but bloated and make you crave strong flavours.
Give fasting a shot
One of the things you should try out is fasting once a week over the weekend since you would be needing energy for studying just skip two consecutive meals (dinner & breakfast or breakfast & lunch, the former is easier since you sleep through most of it).
The reason I like fasting is for two things — the body goes into specific phases that are very useful (do not waste time googling this, I have done it) and more importantly it forces you to gather all your will power and make it one-pointed, it makes you go into monk-mode. I will never preach what I do not practice, so it is safe to try, but do no force yourself or be harsh on yourself if you are unable to.
I just read yesterday that the surest way to destroy a person is to give him everything he or she wants. The corollary to this is that constraints are good. Things like fasting once a week are constraints that helps us reset and get more out of ourselves.
Exercise and if you need to shed some kilos, shed them
One thing that is least talked about is the importance of exercise for mental activities such as test-taking and I cannot vouch for this more. Whenever I sit at my desk for a long time, after a point I feel stale as if my brain is not working, all I need then is a good short walk and get the blood flowing through the body again. Movement is what gets oxygen into our system and makes us feel fresh.
It has been now proven that sitting for long period of time has many harmful effects and I know professionals who have desks that can be adjusted for height so that they can stand and work. You do not need to get one now but you need to counter the effects of sitting for a long time on your desk to prepare long with college or work.
All you need to do is a light exercise at an intensity that only at the end of 30 minutes will make you breathe from your mouth. You should not be panting, your t-shirt should not be drenched. I would suggest a walk or a jog early in the morning or late at night or Yoga or (light) weight training for those who are already doing it.
As I have done before I cannot think of a better thing than adding a few breathing practices to your day.
Those who are slightly on the heavier side will do well to lose a few kilos and feel lighter if you do the things outlined so far, you should be able to (do not start any special weight loss program and start wasting time researching the same, just do what we discussed so far)
Some of you might be thinking, is all of this really necessary?
Well, yes and no.
If you are my friend who is a 10-time 100-percentile or one of his students who had a 100 last-year and scored just a mark or two fewer than him, you do not need any of this. These guys are at a level way beyond the test and the test doesn’t need them to stretch. If these guys have to compete on a different exam with many more people at their level I am sure they would also benefit from being in prime physical shape. But everyone else, including yours truly, can get better by being really fit.
Magnus Carlsen, the current world chess champion and the player with the highest ELO rating ever, does a lot of exercise work as well, he works out every single day, basically a lot of aerobic training. He says it crucial to be able to sit and think for hours at a stretch, so yeah, if Carlsen does, you and I sure should.
Is there going to be pattern change?
The CAT as an exam has a penchant for getting something or the other wrong every single time. Sometimes the things that go wrong are for poor test-takers at a venue level never get reported. Sometimes, it is the kind of errors that we saw on the demo software they launched. There is no reason for me to elaborate on the same since and discuss it in detail. I think there will be no change in structure.
Even if there is, it changes absolutely nothing, it just makes things easier.