Exam stress management Part 1

This time last year I was attending university and taking exams. This year, it’s my daughter’s turn to do her mock GCSEs.

Examinations are a necessary part of modern life and often people find them very stressful.  Here are some holistic and complementary ways to ensure you or a student in your life minimises distress during exam season.

First, sleep is very important. Ensure that any opportunity to get a little extra sleep is taken.  It’s better to head to bed early and get a good night’s rest and then wake up a little earlier to do some revision or complete an assignment or get some movement exercise in than to wait until the midnight hour is reached and wake up groggy the next day.   Also, if you find yourself closing your eyes whilst studying then allow yourself a short power nap.  Power naps have been shown to be beneficial for wellbeing including memory and alertness.

Coffee or caffeine tends to be a key factor in many students’ exam regime and yes it has its place but ensure it doesn’t keep you awake during the time when you want to be fast asleep.  Start the day off with a good breakfast.  If you are not a morning person and the thought of breakfast freaks you out (my daughter is like this) then consider the following:

  • overnight oats with nut butter (fat and protein)
  • a smoothie (again with fat and protein and not just fruit) or
  • poached or boiled eggs with leafy green vegetables.
  • mackerel
  • avocado toast

I even advocate using a pre-made supplement smoothie powder if the thought of making something else is really daunting.  I do not recommend sugary cereals though.

When we are distressed, our digestive system doesn’t perform well.  Use the clock to eat regular meals at regular times through the day.  Erratic eating patterns can worsen the effect of exam stress on our digestion.  Ensure you eat plenty of vegetables through the week – this optimises on your gut flora and gives you the fibre and phytonutrients you need.  Peppermint essential oil can help increase appetite via inhalation and also you may find that peppermint herbal tea helps settle your digestion.  I normally don’t advocate snacking through the day – usually with the right plate of food at a meal you would not need to.  However, snacking during exams seems to be part and parcel of the process.  Therefore, pick your snacks wisely.  The following are ideal:

  • miso soup – it’s probiotic and also helps with hydration
  • handful of nuts and/or seeds – omega oils
  • cacao nibs- rich in magnesium (they go particularly well with mulberries)
  • plain live yoghurt, whether dairy or coconut
  • hummous with crudites e.g. celery, carrots

Exercise is also important.  It’s very easy during exam season to spend hours cramped into a chair, huddled over a desk or lying on a bed reading your revision notes.  Use the clock and set aside some time to move about and stretch and also rest your eyes by staring at a distant point and if possible head outside and look around.

Another great way to de-stress is to know a little hand reflexology.  Find the dip in the centre of your palm.  With your other hand use a pincer grip so that your thumb is in the dip and your index finger is on the other bony side of the hand supporting it.  Rotate your thumb around and around – that dip is the solar plexus chakra in hand reflexology and a minute on both hands can really help with stress release.  I also find that using your index fingers on your inner eyebrow edge and working along the eyebrow ridge to the outside with small pressure pushes can really help tired eyes.


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