There are a few weeks before the February ACT and a two months before the March SAT. By experimenting with these ideas now if, you'll be able to fine-tune your morning routine and maybe even feel better in school.
One more quick note:
While I'm titling this article as ways to help you feel alert, many of the techniques will also help you calm down if you are feeling anxious, stressed, or jittery. Really, these are techniques for feeling centered, regardless of whether you start out lethargic or wound up.
Meditation: Try getting up 15-20 minutes earlier (I know it sounds counter-intuitive to suggest less sleep, but stick with me on this), and add a meditation to your morning routine. Meditation is both an opportunity for deep rest and, when done in the morning, a nice bridge between being in sleep-mode and alert-mode. I explain a basic meditation practice in my book, Acing It! A Mindful Guide to Maximum Results on Your College Admissions Test and teach students how to meditate as a part of my test prep programs or single coaching sessions. To get the maximum benefits of your meditation, I recommend meditating before you eat food or drink coffee.
Eat a Healthy Breakfast: Not only does eating breakfast give you fuel, but it also kickstarts your body's inner workings. My favorite breakfast is steel-cut oatmeal with mix-ins and maybe some extra nuts on the side if I'm feeling particularly hungry. You can experiment with how big or small your breakfast is, but eating something is better than nothing.
Caffeine: "But First, Coffee" is a meme for a reason. If you don't already drink caffeine in the morning, experiment with having a small cup of coffee or caffeinated tea with your breakfast. Personally, I don't drink caffeine every morning. Instead, I save it for the mornings I'm especially tired or want to feel especially alert, as you would on test day. If, like me, you don't include caffeine into your normal morning routine, be sure to experiment with drinking coffee or tea before test day because coffee gives some people the jitters. If coffee—or too much coffee—has that effect on you, it's good to know your limits so that you don't feel extra anxious or have trouble focusing or sitting still while taking the official test.
Move: The next thing you can try is a bit of physical activity, such as pushups, yoga sun salutations, burpees, or dancing (in your room—no one will see) to get your heart rate up or release any test-day nerves.
Deep Breaths (and Smells): Taking full, deep breaths feels really energizing. A few ways to play around with this basic idea:
Adrenaline: On test day, in all likelihood, the adrenaline that naturally comes with taking the test will help you feel more alert. Thankfully, for the adrenaline surge, you don't need to add something special to your morning routine. That said, if you want to leverage the focus that adrenaline gives you on a normal school day, taking a few moments to reflect on your goals for the morning and why your attention matters might help you feel more present during your first hours of school.
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