Elise Gout

How to Stay Awake and Aware

Oh, to be a junior – in all of my seventeen years (and nine months), I have yet to encounter a time when I was more desperate for 25-hour days.

You’re constantly pulled in a dozen directions (whilst being scolded for not achieving that healthy eight-hour sleep quota), and by the end of the week, it becomes a battle just to make it past 9:00 p.m. Although there isn’t one easy solution to such overwhelming fatigue, there are a few little lifehacks that I’ve found can make a difference.

1. Strategic Showering

Yes, I am telling you to plan out your shower times. (And, yes, this is crazy…but so is tackling all that textbook reading plus an essay plus SAT/ACT review). If you’re deep into the evening and still have a quite a ways to go, taking a shower can be the perfect opportunity to refresh your mind and wake up your body. Think of it as a mini restart. The same also goes for mornings: if it’s physically impossible for you to be a night owl, showering before your pre-sunrise cram session can really get you going.

2. Cat naps aren’t just for cats


There were multiple AP Bio death nights where brief little naps fueled me just enough to keep pushing ahead. This certainly isn’t effective for everyone, but sometimes letting yourself sleep for a small fraction of time (20 minutes is generally a good starting length), you can rid yourself of the more superficial tiredness. And don’t think you need to fall into a deep, deep, slumber – just closing your eyes can be enough.

3. Stay hydrated

There are plenty of kids out there who take to coffee, tea, or even soda for that matter, like it is their sole savior of everything that’s good in the world. And (while to this day I live in fear of crippling caffeine-dependence), I get where they’re coming from. However, simply ensuring you drink enough water, good old H2O, can fight exhaustion too. When you’re busting out assignment after assignment, it’s insanely easy to forget about basic needs. Just keep a glass next you – throw some lemon in there if you’re feeling especially artsy – and remember that by the time you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.

4. Exercise

Keeping the body active is a big part of keeping the mind active. The more time you are slumped in a chair – or worse, a comfy couch – the more likely you are to nod off and walk up at 3:00 am in a panicked daze with dried drool plastered on the side of your face. (This has, of course, never happened to me ever.) Think about taking twenty minutes to go on a run or do a short ab work out or follow along to a YouTube Zumba clip. Not only is it good for your health, but it will also break up the workload.

5. Squeeze out every minute


To tell you to be “a good time-manager” would be to say what I’m assuming every single adult/parent/teacher/guidance counselor already has. This last one isn’t really about managing time so much as it is about using all of the slivers of time that frequently get wasted.

For example, the time in between classes. By walking straight from period three to period four, cracking open your English book, and reading, you can get a jump-start on the chapter. Similarly, whenever your group is done discussing a question, or your teacher is passing back papers, resist that urge to socialize and instead finish a few math problems. You’d be surprised how quickly these small efforts accumulate and grant you that extra breathing room you need.


  • Elise Gout

    Elise writes articles for the Magoosh SAT blog to help teenagers during an exciting time in their lives. Despite residing in Southern California, where she attends San Dieguito Academy high school, she has no surfing abilities whatsoever; it’s actually rather sad. She is your typical senior high school girl who sword fights daily, and is pretty much convinced that bananas are a food sent from heaven. Elise will attend Columbia University next fall to study environmental science.

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