How many times have you heard ‘stress is good for you’? It’s true! Some stress is actually beneficial BUT too much stress can wear you down and make you both mentally and physically sick. Our bodies are designed to handle small periods of stress. But, we are not equipped to handle long-term, chronic stress that is seen too commonly in the 21st Century.
I remember this feeling when I was doing my A-Levels and I am now experiencing this overwhelming feeling with my upcoming Human Science Exams…
WHAT IS STRESS?
A perfectly normal physiological human response… when we’re stressed our nervous system responds by releasing stress hormones such as Cortisol. This release sends us into ‘fight or flight’ response. We will experience both physical and mental signs as the body is preparing itself to protect its self from the stressor!
Physically we get; Low energy, Headaches, Gut issues (commonly constipation), chest pain, Insomnia, Lack of Libido, Nervousness and Lack/Increase in Appetite.
We get emotional and get easily agitated, feel overwhelmed, find it difficult to relax, low self-esteem and no one wants to socialise feeling that way.
DEALING WITH EXAM STRESS
As usual, I am trying to take the naturopathic and holistic approach to dealing with Anxiety that comes with Exam Stress, rather than reaching for the ‘Headmeds’ that are prescribed by the GP.
This approach works best for me and me personally, everyone is different but I would love to help recommend ideas for you to try!
‘THE DESTRESS DIET'
My diet is pretty clean on a day to day basis, and this is even more important to help your body tackle stress. But here are some of the foods I increase during exam season:
Omega 3’s : oily fish, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds
Avocado’s : Increase the blood flow to the brain and healthy fats supporting my skin
Chocolate : Yes, Dark Chocolate! High in Magnesium it will calm your muscle tension and can fight against cortisol production and have a calming effect on the body, and who doesn’t want chocolate after a long day?
Dark Leafy Greens - vegetables like spinach are high in folate, which produces dopamine, the pleasure hormone helping you stay calm
Mixed berries – high in antioxidants helping to improve your bodies stress response (especially blueberries)
SHOULD I SUPPLEMENT?
I’m a big believer that all our nutrients should come from food, but sometimes I do add some supplementation or herbs into my routine but for no longer than two weeks. This exam season I’ve added:
Omega 3 – supports brain function and development and studies show it can fight depression and anxiety.
Ashwagandha – A herb known for its ability to manage stress it can also lower blood sugar, reduce cortisol and boost brain function (I usually use a tincture bottle and add some to my morning smoothie or juice)
Magnese Citrate – famous as the ‘natural laxative’. Giving your body a boost in magnesium minerals to calm your muscles as well as attracting water to your intestines helps keep things moving at times of stress (because everyone suffers in the gut area when they’re stressed)
SELF CARE (isn't selfish)...
Spending full days in the library isn’t good for anyone, lack of movement, no sunlight and little human interaction. Make sure you give yourself some downtime;
20 minutes (minimum) outside – Allow your body to soak up as much Vitamin D as possible, it helps with Anxiety and depression symptoms
-Schedule in some social time – spending time with my loved ones makes me more motivated and refreshes my brain
Have a pamper night - Magnesium bath salts or a lush bath bomb are my go-to with a face mask and a good book or podcast
Eat yourself better – eating big, good quality meals is a perfect way to give yourself some energy! I like to call it ‘brain food’, but don’t eat at your desk. Take a break to cook yourself a nourishing meal and eat it mindfully.
Get moving – I love a good sweat at the gym I see it as releasing my stress and leaving it behind in the stuido. Boxing classes, HIIT workouts and Bodypump are my usual. Saying that, I also love having some downtime, walking through the fields on a Sunday morning, running in the park with a podcast in and a simple yoga class once a week just to get my head straight.