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Powering through the pressure at exam time

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By Bruce Hoverd, author of Powering Through Pressure: Building resilience for when work gets tough

As you approach and sit exams, do you experience excessive tiredness, low energy, headaches, mood swings, memory loss, difficulty in your interactions with others and loss of focus? More than one 'YES' means that you need to take action NOW to prevent stress.

The good news is that if you take action early enough and continue with our “wise regime,” you are more likely to overcome the pressures you face.

So what do you need to do?

Firstly, notice the signs. Many people continue to have a lifestyle that ignores the causes of the pressure. These symptoms are early warning signs. Your brain and body is telling you it is time to stop doing the things that are only exacerbate your situation. These can include working for long periods without breaks, snacking on sugar-laden food, using stimulants to keep you going, sitting badly in one place in front of a screen for hours, and allowing yourself to become dehydrated.

Research has shown that the greatest sources of the energy you will need to get through this period and think clearly will come from eating well, getting sufficient sleep and balancing regular activity with sedentary work carried out in a comfortable environment.

What will help you nutritionally? A balance of food types, increasing water intake, and higher levels of brain food, particularly fruit, fish and vegetables. One disaster area is found in eating patterns dominated by products full of sugar, such as soft drinks, ready meals, processed food and, surprisingly, low-fat items. Sugar causes an increase in delta, alpha, and theta brain waves that will alter your mind's ability to think clearly and sleep properly.

How do you ensure refreshing sleep, to remain at your best? Develop a pre-sleep routine so that your brain knows when you do something that enables you to relax, it is time to switch off and slow down. Exposure to prolonged periods using technology will tend to stimulate your brain or lead to feeling over-tired. Agree with your friends that you will all reduce the time you spend on social media during this time. Taking exercise and eating earlier in the evening prevents system functioning and stimulation, which can make it difficult to get to sleep. Remember that the deepest and most regenerative sleep will occur during the first sleep cycle before 12.00!

Activity is often sacrificed or reduced at these times. Good practice shows that taking part in physical activities regularly and at key break times, will recharge your batteries. The key is to find those activities which you enjoy most. You can also maintain your confidence levels by taking part in the activities you are good at. Many people use exercise as a personal reward, for reaching study targets.

Our regime also recommends three other strategies;

Take time out to spend with those people who make you laugh and enable you to relax. This also means avoiding those people who leave you feeling frustrated, low on confidence and with lowered self-esteem.

Break up the pattern of your work, so that a challenging or less easy piece of study is followed by something you enjoy and feel confident with.

Finally, find an outlet for built-up tensions and periods of inactivity. If you are getting stuck or experiencing “brain fug,” use your favourite form of relaxation to restore your sanity.

By planning your “taking care of self” regime, and sticking to it, you will reduce the pressure you are under, remain well and achieve better results.

Powering Through Pressure by Bruce Hoverd (Pearson) is out now, priced £12.99, from Amazon and all good book shops.

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