As the school year winds down, end-of-the-year activities can make parents and kids alike feel hectic. Not to mention that it’s time for final exams. But May need not feel so stressful. We offer 10 ways to reduce stress AND still perform well on exams and other high-stakes events. Take (even some of) this advice and you’ll be better able to cope with the challenges of the month.
Humor is something of a panacea when it comes to health. It can boost the immune system, smooth the path to success socially and in work (laughing together signals positive emotions and affiliation with another) and even help us to live longer. It also reduces stress. Laughter tamps down cortisol levels, making it easier to manage stressful events.
2. Eat well:
The connection between food and mood is strong. Both high and low blood sugar levels can affect disposition and the ability to cope with stress. Foods high in sugars and carbohydrates give quick energy, but can weigh you down and make you feel sluggish. Eat fruit early in the day; it’s easy to digest and helps to moderate energy levels. Specifically for stress reduction, try eating foods rich in B vitamins like avocados and almonds and blueberries and oranges for antioxidants and Vitamin C.
Breathing is a proven stress reliever. Different breathing techniques produce different responses. Slow, deep breathing will stimulate a parasympathetic reaction that serves to calm you down. Take a few minutes (even one is sufficient) to focus on your breath as you breathe. Breathe through your nostrils and try to focus on your exhalation being longer than your inhalation. This simple exercise can drive down stress and activate the parasympathetic nervous system. It’s especially helpful before or during an exam or an important meeting.
4. Take a break:
Your brain could use the downtime! And a break in your thoughts could even increase your creativity as well. When you allow your mind to wander, you may make connections that are not apparent when you focus closely on a topic. Ironically, taking a break when you are the busiest could actually improve your productivity since you may uncover better, more creative ways to approach the task at hand.
5. Meditate or practice yoga:
Both meditation and yoga restore attention and motivation, foster creativity and improve efficiency. In a study involving more than 1,000 employees of Aetna, mindfulness meditation and yoga were correlated with not only less stress but also about an hour’s worth of increased productivity per week. And in the year following the study, Aetna’s health care costs fell as paid medical claims per employee were down 7.3%! You can find some helpful apps to kickstart or support a meditation practice here.
6. Take a walk – outside:
A walk is always good for a change in perspective. A walk in nature is even better. Japanese people have long touted the practice of “forest bathing” for its proven benefits of: lowering heart rate and blood pressure; reducing cortisol production; boosting the immune system and improving overall feelings of wellbeing. Research even showed it to improve heart rate variability. Apparently, natural chemicals secreted by evergreen trees called phytoncide seem to show high correlations with these positive effects. Live in a city? A park is a better place for a stroll than a busy sidewalk.
When you’re busy and stressed, you tend to avoid actively listening to music because it may feel unproductive. But music can be a powerful way to release tension. And productivity increases when stress is reduced. Since musical preferences vary, there is no one specific type of music that is calming to all people, but classical music comes close. The iLs Focus Series combines classical music with bone conduction and movement. Programs can be tailored to calm down, address attention issues and a lot more.
8. Face to face interaction:
Social interaction is a great way to regulate your nervous system. Amid chaos, talking with a friend face to face can quickly calm you down and relieve tension. This kind of in-person interaction, not just texting, allows us to receive and give signals of comfort and security and promotes health, growth and restoration.
Getting a good night’s sleep of the appropriate length for your age has been proven to: sharpen memory; improve test performance; spur creativity; lower stress; lose weight; and even lengthen your life. Many people with insomnia have shortened their sleep latency and reduced their nighttime awakenings by using the Dreampad.
Naps can be incredibly restorative. Even a 20-minute nap can do wonders: sharpen concentration, improve performance, enhance learning and elevate mood. Progressive companies are even setting up places for employees to nap. But some people find it difficult to fall asleep in the middle of the day even when granted permission. The Dreampad can be a napper’s best friend, encouraging deep, slow breathing and parasympathetic activation.