In Part 1 of this series on studying during the holidays, we explored five tips for staying on track with your EPPP studies during the stressful and busy holiday season. Today we finish off the list with five more tips for keeping the course so you can enjoy the season and keep your study schedule!
All things being equal, it is best for your holiday studying to take place in the morning so you have the entire day ahead of you to enjoy. If you save your EPPP prep for the evening, you may have to pull yourself away from an enjoyable activity with family and friends or risk leaving it until too late once everyone else has gone to bed and you are too tired to study effectively. This is not a hard and fast rule, but it does represent one very good best practice.
Tip 7: Find a Distraction-Free Environment.
One of the reasons that studying during the holidays is difficult is not that we don’t have enough time – sometimes we even have more time during the holidays. Rather, the difficulty often arises from there being so many distractions. At all times, but especially during the holidays, it’s important to find a distraction-free environment as you study for the EPPP.
It would be better to study for half an hour by yourself in a quiet room then for 3 hours around the Christmas tree having to fight off distractions and getting frustrated with everyone.
Finding a distraction-free environment may be challenging during the holidays, especially if you are sharing a house with relatives or vacationing with your family. But wherever possible, we recommend you try to achieve some seclusion when doing your holiday studies. This will work for your benefit as well as the benefit of those around you. Places to study could include a local library, a coffee shop, or even just sitting alone in your car.
Tip 8: Keep Your Holidays Restful and Sober.
It is ironic that Christmas and New Years are supposed to be times of relaxation and fun, yet often family members bring their baggage and unresolved issues into the holiday. As much as possible, try to avoid holiday stress with family members since stress and anxiety can tax the part of the brain needed for acquisition, consolidation, and recall. Develop a plan beforehand for how you’re going to respond to stressful situations so they don’t catch you off guard.
Also avoid overdrinking during the holidays as too much alcohol use can result in memory loss.
Along the same lines, it is important to get plenty of sleep and to avoid prolonged nighttime parties that could result in sleep deprivation. In order to turn study sessions into long-term memories, we need to engage in acquisition, consolidation, and recall. The first and third of these (acquisition and recall) take place when you are awake. Consolidation, on the other hand, largely occurs while you’re sleeping. So during the holidays, don’t shortchange yourself on sleep. If for some reason you are not able to get sufficient sleep at night, don’t be afraid to take a nap the next day.
Tip 9: Protect Your Working Memory.
Even when secluded by yourself, you may still have to contend with a myriad of mental distractions. For example, as you are going through your EPPP preparation materials, you may suddenly remember a present you forgot to buy someone or arrangements that need to be made in time for Christmas or New Years. The human brain is only capable of holding onto around seven things at once, plus or minus two. Thus, in order to achieve acquisition, consolidation, and recall of material, you need to be able to study without your working memory being bombarded with holiday distractions.
Fortunately, the solution to this problem is fairly simple. During your studies, keep a pad of paper on hand. As things to do come to mind, write them down on the paper and then forget about it and immediately return to your studies. The act of committing a thought to paper is enormously helpful in freeing the brain to no longer feel the need to hold onto something.
Tip 10: Keep Your Holidays Joyful.
Finally, allow yourself to enjoy this time of year. Use the holidays as an opportunity to connect with your significant other, and to pursue activities you have recently been neglecting, whether that’s watching your favorite TV show, hiking, reading, or meditating. Above all, as you spend time with those you love, remind yourself why you want to be a psychologist and the factors that first started you down this road.