DR ASHA PEMBERTON
Despite the uncertainly of these current times, thousands of young people continue to prepare for high-stake examinations due to begin in a few weeks. This time can be filled with panic, excitement or dread; none of which, in excess lends to optimal functioning or performance. For the examination students and their families here are some general wellness strategies which can support focus, calm and best efforts.
Tweens and teens thrive on predictable and consistent lifestyles. At this time, your family may have developed a daily routine in preparation for the exam. This should be continued. Sudden changes, even with the best of intentions can literally throw students off track. Time for relaxation and leisure are critical to mental wellness and should not be sacrificed.
Although tempting, it is not recommended for young people to push themselves at extreme hours forcing in last minute revision. Optimal rest is essential to brain functioning. Fatigued minds and bodies simply do not perform. Adolescents aged ten to 13 require upwards of eight hours of quality sleep nightly. Remove devices and electronic media 30 minutes before bedtime. Create a cool, uncluttered sleeping environment and avoid caffeine or sugar sweetened beverages before bed. When young people consistently wake up groggy or irritable, more rest is required. Schedule revision times wisely, during the early afternoon and evening hours and ensure that sleep is a priority.
Like rest, our minds and bodies require appropriate and adequate nutrition and hydration. Highly processed foods offer little nutrient content and can also lead to digestive problems, constipation and bloating, all of which can be powerful distractions on examination day. Create meals of fresh fruits, vegetables, fish and ground provisions. Prepare and feed your child the best quality foods and encourage them to drink water regularly throughout the day. There are many herbal preparations which claim to improve brain functioning and memory, some of which are untested and not proven. Experimentation with new foods or supplements at this time is not advised, as allergic reactions or even abdominal complications can occur which themselves will negatively affect preparation and performance.
The power of prayer, meditation and connectedness to God cannot be overstated. In addition to support, prayer and mindfulness help adolescents calm their thoughts and ease anxiety. It is expected that examination candidates will have some intense feelings of panic in the coming days and some may even get “irritable bowels” or other physical symptoms. Specific periods of quiet time, relaxation and positive imagery are mindfulness based methods which are helpful.
These examinations and assessments comprise one step in the overall life journeys of these young people. Their outcomes do not define who they are, nor should they limit their beliefs in their capabilities for the future. Take the time to fine-tune and prepare them to be their best. Beyond that, take the time to support, love and reassure them, that no matter what, they are worthy and loved.