The sun is shining, and that can only mean one thing – exam time has rolled around again. NCI counsellor Mary Keating has some advice on stress management that can stop you feeling overwhelmed at this challenging time.
While a moderate amount of stress is normal and can even be good for us – releasing hormones that help us to tackle challenging situations – too much of it places unnecessary strain on the body and can start to detrimentally affect our health. The good news is that there are a number of simple steps you can take to help you control your stress levels and cope effectively with the challenges of college life.
1. Find the right balance
Many students struggle to balance studying and their academic workload with clubs and societies, social activities and part-time work. It’s a common mistake to take on too many activities and you can start to feel overwhelmed. It’s important that you strike the right balance between work and play. They are both essential parts of the college experience, so don’t neglect one in favour of the other. Yes, even at exam time! Take time out to relax and recharge. You should also be realistic about what you can actually accomplish. Don’t ask too much of yourself – and don’t let anyone else do so, either.
2. Diet and Exercise
It might be difficult, especially if you’re living away from home for the first time, but try to eat a balanced diet – this will really impact on your general health. Eat a variety of foods, get your 5 portions of fruit and veg a day and eat plenty of carbs for energy. Switch to wholegrain if you can, and restrict sugary, fatty foods like chocolate and crisps. Drink more water, less fizzy or caffeinated drinks, and don’t skip meals, especially breakfast –- this will lower your blood sugar, leaving you tired and cranky. Eating lots of fish will mean you are getting lots of good Omega 3 and 6 which help brain function and also help your mood!Exercise is important, too. It will release tension and generate those feel-good endorphins. Choose something you like doing or exercising will start to feel like a chore – check out sports clubs, or classes at the college gym.
We all know we should be aiming for our 8 hours a day but exam time can often mean hitting the books and an increase in late nights. Try to organise your study schedule so you don’t fall into this trap.It’s important to establish a regular sleeping pattern – it will help if you try to avoid food, alcohol, caffeine or nicotine just before bedtime. Fit in your exercise earlier and avoid it before you try to sleep. Limit the noise so where possible, close windows and turn off the TV and radio. It’s amazing how much better you’ll feel after a good night’s sleep – and how much more productive your studying will be!
4. Talk to someone
If you’re feeling particularly stressed then the first step is to talk to somebody. This can be a parent, a friend, one of your lecturers, someone on the student support team or the college counsellor. Everyone encounters stress or anxiety at some stage in their lives so remember that you’re not alone, and just talking about the situation really can help.
Mary Keating is the student counsellor for National College of Ireland. She holds a Masters in Psychotherapy and has worked in this area for over 8 years. Prior to that she worked in the world of business, so she has lots of personal experience with stress and the importance of stress management!
Get in touch with Mary: text or call 086 878 3086 or email her on [email protected].
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