Maybe you have a test coming up. Maybe you learned of some social drama, or forgot to walk the dog, or have to talk at assembly. Maybe an English paper is due tomorrow and you haven’t even read the book yet. Whatever it is, school can be stressful. And that stress can build and cause all sorts of problems like this:
So what can be done? What does The Science say? How can you beat those glucocorticoids building from your brain? The research has a couple of tips that may help:
1) Get sleep. Unless you’re one of those rare individuals who doesn’t need as much as other people, a learning brain needs about 5 sleep cycles per night to function at an optimal level (that’s 7.5 to 8 hours on average). Instead of cramming all night before a test, students perform better on a full nights’ sleep and less studying. So turn off electronics an hour before bed, get cozy, and pass out.
2) Try expressive writing. A huge amount of students suffer from test anxiety. Along with this list of 8 strategies, it’s been shown that expressive writing can have a huge benefit for test takers. Expressive writing is simply taking 10-15 minutes cataloguing fears, concerns, memories, and goals about an experience, like a test. It doesn’t worry about punctuation, spelling, or grammar. In other words, it is a way to put thoughts on the page and out of your head where they can cause anxiety. When it comes to school, the simple act of writing down worries before a test helps students overcome their anxiety. Give it a try; next time a scary event approaches, write your thoughts down beforehand.
3) Exercise. Along nearly every metric, exercise helps with mood, focus, and ability to understand information. Plus, lifting a pencil isn’t a struggle when you’re fit. To sweat out anxiety, try boxing, running, rock climbing, weight lifting, or team sports.
4) Meditate. The evidence is growing that taking some zen time has benefits bigger than becoming a Crouching Tiger or Hidden Dragon. After reviewing 19.000 meditation studies (actually, 18.753 studies), Johns Hopkins researchers have determined that “meditation programs can result in moderate reductions of multiple negative dimensions of psychological stress.” In other words, start saying “Ohm.”
5) EMDR. A growing, if not controversial method of stress reduction is called “Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing” or EMDR. Usually used to treat PTSD, it is now suggested as a way to limit anxiety. Though we are not sure how it works yet, it looks like it mimics the way REM sleep works, helping to compartmentalize and contextualize traumatic events. For more information, visit the International Site.