2015 October 26 by Julie
Too much anxiety takes the fun out of life! Here are some sensible tips for stressed out students.
Be prepared. Develop good study habits. Study at least a week or two before the exam, in smaller increments of time and over a few days (instead of pulling an “all-nighter”). Try to simulate exam conditions by working through a practice test, following the same time constraints.
Develop good test-taking skills. Read the directions carefully, answer questions you know first and then return to the more difficult ones. Outline essays before you begin to write.
Maintain a positive attitude. Remember that your self-worth should not be dependent on or defined by a test grade. Creating a system of rewards and reasonable expectations for studying can help to produce effective studying habits. There is no benefit to negative thinking.
Stay focused. Concentrate on the test, not other students during your exams. Try not to talk to other students about the subject material before taking an exam.
Practice relaxation techniques. If you feel stressed during the exam, take deep, slow breaths and consciously relax your muscles, one at a time. This can invigorate your body and will allow you to better focus on the exam.
Stay healthy. Get enough sleep, eat healthfully, exercise and allow for personal time. If you are exhausted—physically or emotionally—it will be more difficult for you to handle stress and anxiety.
(Anxiety and Depression Association of America)
2015 October 19 by Julie
Believe it or not, diet plays a huge part in how we feel and behave. Give your body the right nutrition and you will be helping to alleviate emotional & behavioural difficulties. Your diet is your body’s fuel. Fill up with poor quality fuel and expect a bumpy ride. Consider this plan of action which includes super foods for better moods and improved concentration:
Avoid foods with additives or loaded with sugar. Get into the habit of checking labels. Too much sugar can contribute to erratic behaviour and mood changes. Additives to avoid are artificial colourings (eg.tartrazine), sweeteners, preservatives & flavourings. Processed foods should be replaced by fresh, natural, sugar-free alternatives. If you are looking for a sweet treat or “comfort food”, choose dark chocolate as this can give you a mood boost without sending your blood sugar on a roller coaster ride.
Fill up on whole, nutritious foods that encourage healthy digestion. Replace junk food with a diet rich in fresh fruit and vegetables that will provide vitamins & minerals essential to support health. Seek out foods rich in vitamin B12 and folic acid (seafood is a must!) and eat selenium-rich foods every day (brazil nuts are No.1!).
Essential fats must be included in your diet. The brain & nervous system need a good supply of fat to function and develop effectively. Make sure you boost the right fats and only cut out the saturated fats that are bad for health. Feast on oily fish (eg. salmon), seeds (pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, linseed), nuts (walnuts), olive oil, green leafy vegetables like spinach. Supplement with Omega 3 & 6 if your diet doesn’t include enough of these essential fats. Omega-3 is a key mood-boosting nutrient and one our bodies don’t produce. Omega-3’s alter brain chemicals linked with mood—specifically dopamine and serotonin. Low levels of serotonin are linked with depression, aggression and suicidal tendencies, while dopamine is a “reward” chemical that the brain releases in response to pleasurable experiences.
Identify foods that trigger unwanted behaviour/symptoms of anxiety and eliminate these allergens from your diet. Common culprits are wheat, gluten, eggs, dairy, and caffeine stimulants.
Get enough vitamin D. The best source is to get outside into the sunshine for your daily dose.
It is quite a task making sure that from meal-to-meal and day-to-day you have good glycaemic control and your GI tract is operating smoothly. Good moods and focus will be the result, so it is definitely worth making the effort to get it right.
Make sure your diet is rich in these foods to experience some feel-good benefits. Satisfy your hunger and ward off feelings of doom and gloom. Your body will be satisfied and your mind will be calm & focussed. Eating the right foods can improve your memory, lift your mood and help you concentrate for longer.
2015 October 12 by Julie
Ever considered that your emotional state might be linked to the food you eat? The stomach is often referred to as the “second brain.” How we treat our digestive system can dramatically change emotions and alter mood disorders in a positive manner. If you are dealing with anxiety, it might be a good idea to watch what you eat and make some changes to your diet. Certain foods can aggravate symptoms of anxiety leaving you feeling buzzed, edgy and unable to concentrate. Changes to your diet may make some difference to your general mood or sense of well-being.
Here are some diet tips for anxiety sufferers:
- Breakfast is the most important meal of the day as you need energy to kick-start your day. Make sure it includes some protein (eggs, yoghurt, cheese), as this will help you feel fuller for longer. The stomach takes longer to digest proteins. You will be helping your body avoid blood sugar crashes that might leave you feeling jittery and anxious.
- Make sure you choose complex carbohydrates (eg. wholegrains) as they increase the amount of serotonin in the brain (a chemical believed to act as a mood stabiliser). Stay away from the simple carbs that include sugary foods & drinks.
- Avoid refined sugars as they will wreak havoc with your blood glucose levels and weight. Sweet treats might give you an immediate high or ‘feel good’ emotion, but the effects of sugar leaving the body will turn that spike into a low that can increase symptoms of anxiety in the long run.
- Cut out excessive amounts of foods high in saturated fats. Get the necessary fats for optimal health from foods like salmon, avocado, olive oil & raw nuts. Chips, hamburgers & pizza should go on your ‘avoid me’ list.
- Limit or avoid caffeine. Coffee and energy drinks are stimulants and will give you a temporary boost/high but can also leave you feeling on edge & jittery. It will interfere with sleep which will in turn aggravate anxiety levels. Large doses of caffeine can cause rapid heartbeat which might trigger panic attacks.
- Limit or avoid alcohol. Moderation is the key here! It is a depressant that has a negative effect on mental health. You might think that a drink will calm you down, but as your body processes the alcohol, you will feel dehydrated, edgy and the quality of your sleep will be affected. In large quantities alcohol becomes toxic to your body and mind.
- When thirsty, rather drink plenty of water. Dehydration affects mood and causes headaches. Consuming water will keep your body hydrated, help your digestive system operate at its peak and keep feelings of anxiety in check.
- Pay attention and be aware of what you are eating. Take note of foods you might be sensitive to and cut them out of your diet. Food sensitivities can cause physical reactions like itchy outbreaks on the skin, bloating & cramping of the stomach, headaches, nausea/vomiting which can greatly affect mood and sense of well-being.
- Make an effort to eat healthy, balanced meals. This is important for overall physical and mental health. Eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, and don’t overeat. It is very difficult to reduce anxiety if your body is struggling to process the food you consume. Avoid foods that are difficult to digest and have little nutritional content (eg. fried foods).
2015 October 5 by Julie
In the 21st century, ANXIETY is another word for FEAR. It is a very real, normal and natural part of the human experience.
Whether you are a child, adolescent or adult, you will at some stage experience the emotion of uncertainty and feel like you are not in control. Survival is a “fight or flight” mechanism and anxiety is the fuel that gives energy to do the fighting or running. When you feel inadequate or ill prepared to cope, you might feel nervous, jumpy, uptight, overwhelmed or out of control. The problem is you don’t always know how to manage these feelings. Left unchecked, these feelings will build and lead to chronic conditions like depression.
This time of year anxiety is a very real problem for students. Exam time looms and there is pressure to succeed. For the Matrics who are preparing to complete their school careers, there might be a fear for the future that is becoming overwhelming. For all students, there’s a lot of info, a lot to learn, a lot to know. Some might have trouble dealing with the commitments to school, sports, a social life and family obligations all at once. The growing presence of technology and social media adds to the balancing act and results in children/adolescents who feel rushed and pressured.
Some of the causes of anxiety amongst the younger generation might be economic distress, dysfunctional families, absent and preoccupied busy parents, technology obsession, social media and extraordinary pressure to excel.
Lifestyle is directly related to emotional health, so it’s vital for students to get enough sleep, eat well, avoid caffeine and excessive drinking, limit computer time and build healthy relationships with family and friends.
Tips to Manage Anxiety and Stress
- Take a time-out.Practice yoga, listen to music, meditate, get a massage, or learn relaxation techniques. Stepping back from the problem helps clear your head.
- Eat well-balanced meals. Do not skip any meals. Do keep healthful, energy-boosting snacks on hand.
- Limit alcohol and caffeine, which can aggravate anxiety and trigger panic attacks.
- Get enough sleep.When stressed, your body needs additional sleep and rest.
- Exercise dailyto help you feel good and maintain your health.
- Count to 10 slowly. Repeat, and count to 20 if necessary.
- Do your best. Instead of aiming for perfection, which isn’t possible, be proud of however close you get.
- Accept that you cannot control everything. Put your stress in perspective: Is it really as bad as you think?
- Welcome humour. A good laugh goes a long way.
- Maintain a positive attitude. Make an effort to replace negative thoughts with positive ones.
- Get involved.Volunteer or find another way to be active in your community, which creates a support network and gives you a break from everyday stress.
- Learn what triggers your anxiety.Is it work, family, school, or something else you can identify? Write in a journal when you’re feeling stressed or anxious, and look for a pattern.
- Talk to someone.Tell friends and family you’re feeling overwhelmed, and let them know how they can help you. Talk to a physician or therapist for professional help.
(Anxiety and Depression Association of America