You might have read our first article here on understanding stress. Now, we have chosen the best tips for coping with stress and preventative practices to reduce stress. Just so you know, we have consulted students, graduates, life coaches, youth counsellors and more to find you the best tips…
1. Are you a man with a plan or a girl with a goal?
Just like you plan your holidays, weekends and the enjoyable stuff, planning work or revision will help clear your head and give you purpose. A routine will help you switch on to work mode and more importantly switch off. So, think about what you need to do, how long you have, how and when are you going to do it. Make a timetable or set time-related objectives and schedule in breaks, exercise, meals, social times etc.
2. To cram or not to cram?
Say no to cramming! You will do better if you close your books and get a good night’s sleep the night before an exam. Hear the compelling evidence in this fascinating Ted Talk: Dr. Shai Marcu (paediatric neurologist and sleep specialist) explains how sleep restructures our brains in a way that’s crucial for how our memory works.
Click here for tips on getting a good night’s sleep.
Nothing manic, don’t panic! Plan time to do some exercise - that doesn’t mean sweating buckets at the gym, it can be as simple as a walk in the park. Exercise is known to boost your mood, it releases endorphins which helps you relax and even sleep better. Young Minds recommends 30 minutes 5 x a week, but if you really hate the thought, combine the ‘exercise’ with buying a drink, seeing a friend or popping to the supermarket.
4. Eat for the win
Food is fuel and making thoughtful choices can transform your productivity and performance. Research shows there’s a link between the food we eat and our mood - the food-mood connection. When we’re stressed, food tastes less sugary and intense, so we will be more likely to reach for high-sugar snacks; to avoid temptation, buy and prepare meals in advance, so you’re not reaching for unhealthy options.
What to eat? Bring in the fruit and veg, as always. Protein-rich foods keep you fuller for longer and stimulate the mind – think lean meat, fish and nuts. Complex carbs like porridge, lentils, beans, veg, fruit, slowly release into your bloodstream, giving you energy for longer, so you won’t have the crash of tiredness that you get from sugary foods.
5. No skipping meals
I had never really been a breakfast fan, but I now make a conscious effort to eat a decent one, as I know it has a positive effect on my day: a protein-rich breakfast (e.g. eggs, plain yoghurt, nuts) within an hour of waking can boost our mood, energy and cognitive performance early on in the day. Skipping meals gives us a lull in blood sugar, which could affect concentration and memory, as well as making us tired and irritable. Find out more about food-mood here.
6. Take a break and reward yourself
As Jess Glynne says, ‘don’t be so hard on yourself, no’. Taking a break will do you the world of good!
George Turnbull, Ofqual's 'Exams Doctor' advises: ‘When you work, work, and when you play, play. The two don't mix.’ He says ‘texting friends or twittering for three hours - with good intentions to revise - will not help. But 10 minutes will - if you work in that time and do nothing else.’ Then take a mini break and start again. Short, planned breaks can help increase your level of concentration. If you feel motivated and focused, carry on studying, but if you don’t, do take a break. Schedule the time you will stop working and reward yourself at the end of the day: plan a treat, catch up on a TV series, see friends, cook up a feast, go for a run, whatever floats your boat.
Whilst we can’t control the triggers, we can control our response and level of stress, so put some of these tips into practice and we hope it will help you have a productive revision/exam/coursework period.
For a more detailed look into stress and sleep, check out these articles below, including TED Talks, videos, professional tips and more.
3 Part Stress Survival Guide
Part 1 – Good Stress, Bad Stress
Understanding stress, recognising when it’s good or bad, what happens to us when we’re stressed.
Part 2 – Get the Best out of Stress
Channelling stress and controlling our response to pressure.
Part 3 – Stress Busters
How to combat stress, best practice to deal with it and maintaining productivity
Mindfulness to Reduce Stress
Business Coach Claire Derry talks about how she has used mindfulness in particularly stressful situations
If things feel overwhelming and you think you need some professional help