With the run up to, and on through, the end-of-year exams it’s a very stressful time for VCE and Uni students and their families. For many students it’s the biggest challenge they’ve ever faced and many succumb to exam stress. But natural medicine offers much help to overcome study and exam stress and give you the edge in exam performance.
Everyone reacts differently to challenges. While it’s normal to feel stressed at this time, for many the effects can spiral out of control. Read on for advice for managing study stress the easy way with the help of alternative medicine.
With so many high expectations, and so much riding on results it’s quite normal for students under pressure to suffer for many months causing a stress response in their body. The hormones released as a result of being under stress have far-reaching effects on every system in your body both at the time and later on down the track.
While some stress can aid performance, if stress continues over weeks and months it can take over and have detrimental effects. The immediate effects are often evident at the time but the long-term effects can continue after the exams are long over.
In addition, anxious and grumpy students have a big impact on anyone around them particularly on their family. Homes become a bed of tension, concern and even reach friction and confrontation if stress spins out of control.
EFFECTS OF STRESS
During worrying times the stress hormones produced effect the neural connections of the prefrontal cortex. This is where your working memory is located, as well as functions vital for reasoning, planning and problem solving, and for regulating attention and emotions all essential for academic success.
A sudent under great stress is therefore unable to function at their best in exams, no matter how much they study.
In addition stormy emotions weaken the prefrontal cortex and this hampers thinking and learning ability.
Students suffering study stress don’t learn effectively or remember well what they’ve learnt.
In order to perform to their best and to present their ability and knowledge well in their exams, it’s essential for students NOT to be in a state of stress. By actively reducing stress you increase learning capacity, memory, reasoning powers, and academic performance. By reducing stress you’ll feel calm, clear-headed, motivated and in control.
By stepping in early to reduce the effects of stress you support your health and it lays the groundwork for better performance. Reducing your stress can also reduce the tension in the home to restore peace.
REDUCE EXAM STRESS
While there are a number of exercises and lifestyle practices you can do to reduce stress the greatest impact is gained from using alternative medicine. Of these I see the best and fastest results with homeopathic medicines and flower and herb essences.
Homeopathic treatment offers great benefit for all the problems associated with study and exam stress.
Remedies that individually selected to each persons needs for anxiety, difficulty focusing or remembering what was learned, problems sleeping, fear of failing, trouble settling down to study, irritability, feeling like giving up, even mixing up information or getting it backwards.
When the remedies are prescribed according to Homeopathic principles they are very fast acting and effective.
There are some great Homeopathic remedies to calm exam nerves and reduce the anticipatory anxiety and shakiness students experience before the actual exam.
Here are a few of my suggestions:
Gelsemium is a great remedy to take for performance anxiety. It’s perfect before an exam where there is a shaky or jittery feeling and a frequent need to use the bathroom.
Lycopodium is an excellent remedy during study break for someone who worries about being evaluated, who feels they know nothing and will look stupid in front of everyone, but who, once they get started performs wonderfully.
Nux Vomica is useful for an irritable person using too much coffee and other stimulants in an effort to push on through.
There are many other remedies for all those other consequences of study pressure and stress including:
- feeling overwhelmed and out of control
- self-criticism and negative thinking
- irrational beliefs such as “nobody will respect me if I don’t score above 95”
- feelings of catastrophe like “I’ll fail whatever so what’s the point”
- inability to relax into sleep or waking up through the night and worrying
- holding all the emotions inside until they explode
- feelings of isolation and losing touch with friends
- crankiness and irritability
- problems getting motivated
Speaking to a professional Homeopath can clarify all the issues you are facing. They will put together remedies individually suited to YOUR needs.
Flower essences are easy to take – just a few drops on the tongue a few times a day. A few drops can even be added to a water bottle to carry around with you to sip in the moment they are needed the most.
Bach Rescue Remedy is a tried and true treatment for anxiety.
I find the Australian Bushflower Essence ‘Calm & Clear’ excellent for building and sustaining a state of calm in anyone, including students.
Australian Bush Flower Essence ‘Cognis‘ is great for the student who can’t settle down and focus on their study. It balances daydreaming, confusion and a sense of overwhelm and gives clarity and focus to help with the assimilation of ideas. This is a great treatment for the next few weeks when you are trying to consolidate your study.
Individual flower essences are also great for study – Bach’s Clematis helps focus, Gentian for self-belief, Larch for confidence and White Chestnut for clarity.
I like to use and prescribe Herbal Essences as they can be combined in a mixture that specifically addresses the way each person individually experiences exam stress. This means it’s not a “one-size-fits-all” treatment but one that’s tailored to each person. Herbal essences are great as they combine the thousand year old knowledge of the healing power of herbs with the positive effects on the mind and emotions of flower essences
There are a number of studies that show burning essential oils can induce brain power. All the oils can be used in an oil burner but will be more beneficial in a diffuser which disperses the droplets as water vapour. Here are a few to try.
- Basil is one of the best for clarity and encourages concentration. Mix it with rosemary to stimulate memory recall.
- Peppermint stimulates the brain and promotes clear thinking.
Lavender is soothing and relaxing and is useful if stress prevents sleep.
While foods alone won’t turn your exam stress around (unless you’re bingeing) they do play an integral part in how you cope with exam stress.
It’s essential to eliminate all those that hold you back such as sugar, caffeine, alcohol, simple carbohydrates, junk foods and nicotine. But it’s just as important to add those that boost brain power to enhance your study and performance. Right now is when you need lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, meats and complex carbs.
- Omega-3 enhances learning ability and boosts memory power. Itss found in many foods as well as fish oil or krill supplements, or sea buckthorn if you’re vegetarian. Some good sources are oily fish, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds and flax seeds.
- Avocadoes increase blood flow to the brain.
- Chocolate increases endorphin production to improve focus and concentration, and dark chocolate helps cognitive skills by boosting blood supply to the brain. But don’t overdo the chocolate and opt for dark chocolate over the sweet, milky varieties for a much greater impact.
- Nuts and seeds help memory and cognitive skills and are easy to munch while you study
Taking a multivitamin can help keep up vitamin levels reduced by stress. Vitamin B and magnesium are both depleted during stressful times. Take B vitamins in a complex rather than as single vitamins as they work synergistically.
Deep breathing is a wonderful way to calm and relax your emotions very quickly in times of extreme stress. Focusing on the breath helps to exclude outside thoughts and stop panic before it escalates. For the correct technique click here.
Yoga is an excellent way to achieve relaxation quickly, and is perfect to introduce into your study routine. Alternatives are qi gong, tai chi or walking.
While it’s important to take time to relax, to take breaks, to eat well and get plenty of sleep, all the time allocated to study revision is no use at all if you’re not clear-headed, can’t retain the crucial information or are so strung-out you can’t even settle down to study. This is where alternative medicine steps in.
Here are a few things to take away with you.
- Worrying about the study workload or exam outcome only increases stress hormones like cortisol, which impairs your concentration and ability to learn.
- Food can be your friend. Reduce caffeine, sugar, junk foods and alcohol. Add foods that support study.
- Steer clear of performance enhancers like Ritalin.
- Don’t beat yourself up with guilt if you haven’t got everything exactly right.
- Take time off as studying 24/7 doesn’t work. Exercise is a great way to get back focus.
And crucially, now you know how, use Natural Medicine to gain the edge in your exam preparation and performance.
All information and opinions presented here are for information purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation. Please consult with your health care provider before following any of the treatment suggested on this site, particularly if you have an ongoing health issue.