Combat Stress To Do Your Best

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Putting years of hard work into a mere few hours spent furiously scribbling in your exam hall is tough and intimidating. However many Leaving Cert survivors will tell you that it’s the run-up to the exams that is the scariest and most stressful time; here are a few things to bear in mind to keep your panicking to a minimum. . .

1) It’s an oldie but a goodie; get some sleep. Eight hours sleep per night is proven to assist health and help keep your concentration levels sky high. Make sure not to study too late at night, and if you do, take a break at least an hour before you go to bed. Use the time to ‘switch–off’. Go for a walk; watch some TV…anything not exam related. Avoid going over equations or quotations when trying to sleep, this will have the complete opposite effect and only help in turning you into a bleary eyed wreck instead of the confident genius you’re going for.

2) Eat healthily. Stuffing your face with blueberries may not magically make you a master of mathematical formulas but it will keep you feeling your best, and so performance will improve. Avoid too much caffeine as the effects of it will muddle your train of thoughts and escalate your stress levels rather than reduce them.

3) Get some exercise. Studying for lengthy hours and memorising pages of notes causes an increase in the production of hormones in your body like adrenaline which causes your mind to go blank. Go for walks to break this up. It is a scientific fact that exercise raises energy levels, relaxes your mind and body and makes you all the more equipped in your quest as super nerd.

4) Breathing exercises really are great ways to alleviate pressure…if you don’t believe me, remember you’ve nothing to lose; they’re free, short, simple and can be done anywhere at anytime so… Sit or stand in a relaxed position. Inhale through your nose…count to five. Let the air out from your mouth; count to eight in your head as the air leaves your lungs. Repeat a few times. Make sure to let your abdomen expand outwards and to keep your shoulders down; this is a more relaxed way of breathing and will help relaxation.

5) Get your notes in order; rifling through a forest of notes won’t be of any help; flash cards are a great way to keep all important information in a concise, easy to read fashion.

6) Don’t concentrate on what you think you don’t know; when you are attempting the paper you’ll be surprised at the amount of information that will come back to you. Avoid thinking about the number of points you need; it’s a cliché but doing your best really is all you can do.

The Irish Pharmaceutical Union (IPU) have launched a Safe Code for students facing exams; bearing in mind that many students often suffer from headaches, insomnia and stomach upsets due to exam pressures; here are a few of their tips…

1) Headaches Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration. Students who wear glasses or contact lenses should make sure to do so when they are studying so as not to strain their eyes. Study in a well ventilated room and take regular breaks.

2) Dehydration Drink lots of water, avoid too much coffee or stimulant drinks such as Redbull as they can cause dehydration.   Typically the weather is good during exam time.   If studying outdoors make sure to wear high factor suncream, wear a hat and cover up in the sun.   Too much sun can result in lack of concentration.

3) Stomach upsets Avoid spicy foods or foods that you know don’t agree with you. Eat small amounts regularly. A glass of milk or peppermint tea can be good for stomach upsets. If the problem persists you should seek products such as Motillum from your local pharmacy.

4) Diarrhoea or constipation Stress can cause disruption to a student’s digestive system which could result in diarrhoea or constipation. If a student is constipated they should drink plenty of water and eat fruit and high fibre foods. For diarrhoea, make sure to drink plenty of water and keep hydrated. There are various products, available from pharmacists, which help to replenish vital vitamins and minerals.

5) Asthma Be extra vigilant in using inhalers correctly. Your pharmacists can advice you on improving your inhaler technique. Preventative inhalers should be used regularly.   Make sure that you have an ample supply of inhalers and carry an inhaler with you at all times so it can be used during the exam if required.

6) Eczema Stress can cause eczema to flare up. Keep the skin well moisturised with the cream prescribed by your doctor.   Wear loose fitting clothes that won’t aggravate the condition and cause the skin to itch or flare up further.

7) Cold Sores If you feel you may be getting a cold sore, apply preventative cream such as Zovirox as soon as possible and reapply the cream regularly.   Wash your hands thoroughly after applying the cream to avoid the cold sores spreading. Wear a lip balm which contains sun factor to protect your lips when outdoors.

8) Insomnia Avoid caffeinated products such as Coke, Redbull and tea and coffee. Take some light exercise or other activity such as having a bath or shower in order to relax before bedtime. Don’t study in bed as the brain will become over stimulated. Set aside a period for relaxing during the study schedule.

9) Muscular and Joint Discomfort Posture is very important in avoiding muscular discomfort. It is important to have a chair that will provide good back support and that your desk is laid out well. Avoid crossing legs or slouching over a desk. Take frequent breaks when studying, walk around for a few moments or perform some light stretches. For students in severe discomfort lumber supports and wrist rests can be helpful.

10) Hay Fever Those who suffer from hay fever should take steps to ensure that the condition does not flare up during their exams. Simple steps such as keeping doors and windows closed in mid-morning and early evening when pollen levels peak, avoiding lying on the grass. Apply a little Vaseline inside the nose to help reduce symptoms. If you need to take antihistamines, make sure that you take ones which don’t cause drowsiness.

Above all remember these exams are your opportunity to showcase all your knowledge and hard work; make sure to do yourself proud. . . Good luck! is a national database of universities, colleges, institutes and providers of third level and PLC courses in Ireland. We operate a national search database of courses at certificate, diploma and degree level as well as providing information about career paths and directions.
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