The CPA (“Certified Public Accountant”) exam is known for being the ultimate suffering an accounting student has to overcome. It’s not enough that we’ve been processed in the meat shop since freshmen year, beginning with our intro to financial accounting class! On top of our courses, we have to pass a series of 4-5 exams that determine if we’re eligible to be a practicing accountant. To combat the natural stress that comes with this, I’ve been reading into the concept of “biohacking,” which is optimizing your body to be at the apex of its productivity.

Daniel Gross, in his “How to Win” Y Combinator talk, argues that success comes from laying a foundation of excellent body-care habits – sleep, exercise, and eating well. It’s common sense, but when life is rat-racing around, those mundane activities get forgotten. “Biohacking” is resetting your body and actually giving it what it craves; it can also include “hacks” like taking melatonin to sleep, phenibut to socialize better, CBD to calm down, etc. But many of these add-ons are bandages that don’t solve the root problem of your body being under peak performance because you’re tired, eating garbage, or being a potato all day (in excess).

Below are some basic habits I’ve incorporated into my routine to make studying for the CPA not only manageable but a battlefield where I defeat operating leases, diluted EPS, and IFRS guidelines.

Sleep at least eight hours a day

cake, beer, tea, bed, blanket, pillow, sleeping, sleep, nap, napping
Jocelyn Hsu

What a concept, especially in college! My daily waking hours used to be midnight to seven a.m., but I realized that was not sustainable when my brain had to perform on overdrive. My boyfriend was always harping on me about sleep, but it wasn’t until I read his article I understood the importance of it. He wrote,

“Deep sleep is for your brain & body to physically recharge, light sleep helps consolidate memories and experiences, and REM sleep is for your brain to form novel (albeit strange) connections from these various memories.”

By getting more sleep and not feeling like a blob in the morning, I was helping my brain consolidate (like a merger!) all the CPA knowledge I had crammed the day before. It was a form of studying in an ethereal, neurological sense.

Alternate between intense and mindful exercise

Exercising, working out, motivation, music, exercise, Work Out, gym, hydrate, hydration, Sneakers, water, fitness
Denise Uy

The benefits of exercise are numerous and well-documented, but the one that stood out to me was the idea of Neuroplasticity. Your brain is adaptive, responds well to change, and is able to form new neural connections throughout its entire life. Exercise, while also pumping more oxygen to your brain for #highperformance, also increases this neuroplasticity and leads to a more malleable brain. This is great news for the CPA exam! My brain is physically changing to suit a faster-paced, business mindset, which probably explains why the more the I study, the more endurance I have.

My exercise routine fluctuates wildly, from biking intensely on Hawthorne Trail to doing Stadiums at Ben Hill (spaghetti legs!) to being a bendy girl at Vinyassa Yoga. Variety is key because it 1) keeps me engaged and looking forward to exercise and 2) doesn’t overwork any part of my body. Hawthorne Trail is one of my favorites because it snakes throughout Sweetwater Preserve, Depot Park, and other rural parts of Gainesville. 

Reduce alcohol intake and utilize “smart” caffeine

Mackenzie Patel

Coming from the gin queen, this must be a surprise! This revelation is as astounding to my readers as it is to me, especially since most of my Spoon articles relate to alcohol. The CPA exam has sucked my free time dry, which includes no getting tipsy on the weekends (and weekdays). Overall, alcohol is less appealing the older I get– a dry merlot on Sunday night is always a great idea, but when I’m studying until 11 p.m. every day, there is no time for drinking.

I’ve also cut out drinking coffee or anything else that has “jittery” caffeine. I have a few pieces of dark chocolate (90% cacao or higher) for breakfast or tea with light caffeine. This peps up my under-eye bags without the whole psychedelic, warp tunnel side effect. My go-to teas, both caffeinated and noncaffeinated, include turmeric ginger, fennel, chai, and chamomile.

Reduce inflammation as much as possible

Herbal, tea, teacup, flowers
Rebecca Buechler

My body is super prone to inflammation, and it crops up whenever I’m stressed out, excited, or generally not at a baseline mood. Inflammation manifests itself through the organic compound histamine, which is what causes allergic reactions, hives on the face, and IBS. The easy solution is to “be calmer,” but that’s like telling a baby to simply “stop crying.”

To combat this inflammation (which suppresses your immune system, leading to more sickness), I take a Zyrtec, pop a CBD gummy, or eat anything with turmeric in it (a natural antihistamine). Although these sound like a list of “hacks” that I discouraged in the intro, they are effective if used in moderation. I also enjoy being calm (who doesn’t?), so CBD on a Friday night and a long bike ride is my idea of fun.

Does biohacking actually work?

Mackenzie Patel

I’ll let you know once I take (and hopefully pass) my CPA exam! Maybe these suggestions are mere placebo effects, but in order to consume and comprehend as much accounting as I do, I need something – anything – to help my body accomplish this feat. I’ve “biohacked” for almost two months now, and the results are encouraging; I feel healthier than ever, I’m able to navigate psychological stress better, and my grades aren’t slipping. I’m not letting this CPA exam depreciate me more than it already has!