Updated: Oct 5, 2020
The end of November means exams are around the corner for students. In the short-term stress can be a good motivator, but too much stress is harmful for learning and well-being.
Here are eight tips for reducing stress during exams or any stressful time in your life (like the holidays!)
1 - Get enough sleep
Sleep is not only important for learning, but also helps your body deal with stress. The average person needs 7-8 hours of sleep. The good news is that when you consistently get less than your usual amount of sleep, your body adjusts by spending more time in REM sleep (rapid eye movement - the phase of sleep understood to be important for memory consolidation and memory). However, it is still recommended to get at least 4 hours of sleep and to not go more than a few days without returning to your regular amount of sleep.
If your sleep schedule is out of sync, try taking some melatonin. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the body that helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle.
Sign up for DrugSmart Rewards to earn points on supplements, like melatonin.
2 - Make time to relax
Don't forget to take study breaks. It will make studying more effective and provides an opportunity to relax.
Why not soak in a relaxing bath? Light some candles, throw in a bath bomb, and put on some soothing music.
3 - Find your zen
A few minutes of mindfulness meditation can reduce stress and help you refocus on the task at hand. You don't have to be a master to get some benefit from meditation. Just find a quiet spot where you can sit comfortably and focus your attention on the present moment. When your thoughts start to wander (as they inevitably do), acknowledge the thought or worry that distracted you and then shift your attention back to the present moment and sensations you can feel in your body.
There are apps and helpful guides online if you'd like to learn more about mindfulness meditation.
4 - Try some vitamin B
Studies have shown that vitamin B-complex reduces the effects of stress and fatigue. Vitamin B-complex includes the vitamins B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B7, B9 and B12. Your body absorbs these essential nutrients from a wide variety of food, such as leafy vegetables, nuts, legumes, whole grains, meat and dairy.
We all have times when we are very busy though, and eating well is not a high priority. If this is the case for you, consider taking a vitamin B supplement.
Make an appointment with your pharmacist to review your medication profile and ask about supplements that might be right for you.
5 - Get some exercise
It cannot be overstated that 30 minutes of exercise a day has a big impact on your health and well-being. Exercise is good for your brain (it improves the health of your neurons), it boosts energy levels, and releases endorphins in your brain that make you feel better. It doesn't have to be a marathon, even a brisk walk will get your heart rate up.
6 - Break up big tasks
In the face of a big, complicated task (i.e. studying a term's worth of material), just thinking about everything that needs to be done can be overwhelmingly stressful. That's why it is always a good idea to first break up big tasks into smaller, more manageable goals. It tends to be easier to start a smaller goal and you also get a better sense of the progress you're making as you cross those subtasks off your to-do list.
7 - Pet a pup! #beDogSmart
Being around animals can be great for reducing stress and creating a sense of well-being. You will feel good stroking your pet, and your pet will love the attention. It's a win-win!
If you don't have a pet, maybe you have a friend or neighbour who will let you get some pet therapy with their animal. Or you can watch a couple adorable dog and cat videos online - they are best part of the internet after all. This is my favourite.
8 - Reach out to others
When life gets to be overwhelming, remember you are not alone. Studies have shown that an improved ability to deal with stressful situations is one benefit of a strong social support network. Maybe it is time to catch up with a parent or sibling, ask a friend to go for coffee, spend a few minutes with a significant other, or ask a mentor for some encouragement and advice.
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"Stress reduction benefits from petting dogs, cats." <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2019/07/190715114302.htm>