Though June brings with it the promise of long summer days on the beach, we first need to deal with the stress of the exam period. If you are young enough to be going through exams yourself, these are some of the things you can do to relieve stress during exam time. If you are a little past exams yourself, you may be re-living the worry through your children.
Exam stress can manifest in more ways than just feeling uneasy about the upcoming tests. Some symptoms may include:
- Loss of sleep
- Loss of appetite
- Increased appetite and comfort eating
- Lots of headaches and stomach pains
- An overall negative outlook
What could you do if exam stress is getting to you?
Get a balanced diet
During times of high stress levels, food seems to be comforting and exam time is the perfect excuse to binge on all those high-fat, high-sugar treats. Does retreating to your bedroom with a book and a box of cookies sound familiar? Cortisol – the stress hormone – causes cravings, particularly for sweet, carb-heavy food. However, research shows that indulging in this kind of food worsens your mood and causes weight gain, particularly around the belly. Foods that are rich in vitamin C, like berries, have been shown to be helpful in dealing with stress generally, let alone in dealing with exam stress. Zinc deficiencies have been linked to anxiety and depression, so getting enough zinc – cashews are rich in zinc – will help shift that exam cloud. Green tea contains some caffeine and though this is contraindicated at times of stress, green tea also contains an amino acid called theanine, which improves mental performance.
Get enough sleep
Most teenagers need eight to ten hours of sleep a night. While it may seem like a good idea to stay up late and cram for an exam, lack of sleep removes the ability to concentrate and think clearly. When dealing with exam stress, a good night’s sleep will be of greater benefit than a few extra facts picked up from a night of panicked cramming. Allow some downtime before bed so that your mind stops racing and you are able to fall asleep. There is plenty of evidence that chamomile has a calming effect on the mind. When dealing with exam strett get into bed early with a mug of chamomile tea to make sure you get a solid eight hours of shut-eye.
Get enough exercise
For most students any hope of getting any exercise goes out the window come June. More seriously, teenagers give up sports they are passionate about because of O or A levels, never to pick them up again. Although you feel like you should be spending every waking hour trawling through books, activity provides a well-deserved break, making students more responsible about getting things done in the time they have available. Exercise also releases hormones and chemical compounds such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine that affects motivation and positively influences learning and attention span. Research has shown that 20 minutes of activity before an exam can boost test scores, so consider walking to an exam or doing a little bit of aerobic exercise just before you leave.
Make time for rewards
The exam stress may feel like it’s never going to end. Reaching small milestones during the study period should be rewarded to keep the kids motivated. Rewards don’t have to be big or expensive. It could be a favourite meal, or an extra half hour of watching TV.
Organise an after-exam celebration
An end of exam treat gives the student something to look forward to at the end of the long and tedious study period. Whether it’s a holiday, a camping trip or simply a trip to the beach with the family or friends, having something to look forward to at the end of it all helps to keep morale high.