In this blog post I am going to look at something very relevant to this time of year – supporting the teenager through exams.
There are two main considerations when looking at ways to support teens through exam time – 1. memory and concentration; 2. anxiety and exam nerves.
The good news is that natural medicine has quite a lot of different options in this arena!
FOR EXAM STRESS AND ANXIETY
Many teens start to worry and feel the pressure as exam time approaches. Too much stress can lead to panic, which in turn can lead to problems with concentration and recall. So, looking for ways to keep our teens calm and relaxed will in turn help to improve recall, and hopefully exam performance!
Although it may seem pointless to many, learning a simple, calming, breathing technique can pay huge dividends. Breathing in for a count of 4 then out, slowly, for a count of 8 sends calming messages to the brain. Practicing this technique every day will help to promote feelings of calm, and help them to relax when sat in front of that exam paper.
In addition, try and avoid having too much caffeine during this time. It can be tempting to opt for caffeine rich drinks to keep awake, but caffeine actually increases the production of stress hormones, so is likely to make them feel more nervous!
In my opinion there are two supplements which can also be helpful here:
A combination of passiflora and avena sativa – these two botanical ingredients are often combined in natural formulations and make a fantastic daily support during times of stress. Passiflora is pacifying, calming and relaxes the nervous system, without causing any drowsiness. Avena sativa contains an alkaloid, called gramine, which helps to relax the muscles.
An amino acid called L-theanine. Theanine is found naturally in green tea and is said to help increase the production of alpha brain waves. This is important. Alpha brain waves are the brain waves we are trying to produce when we meditate – they promote feelings of calmness. Interestingly, in studies, people taking theanine before going into an exam have reported greater feelings of calmness and increased focus. Theanine does not need to be taken every day, it could just be used as and when needed – even if that is just before going into the exam room.
FOR CONCENTRATION AND FOCUS
Energy demands from the brain are huge, so it is important to ensure (as far as possible) that the teen is eating properly - so that the brain has access to the fuel it needs to work well. Breakfast really is vital, as is a proper lunch and healthy snacks. Staying hydrated, with plenty of water, is also thought to be helpful here.
Additional help can be found from certain supplements:
It is never too late to start on fish oils! Our brain needs the omega 3 fatty acids provided by oily fish to perform properly and supplementing these oils has been shown to improve concentration, focus and memory. Look for a super strength omega 3 supplement and take one every day after breakfast. There is some evidence that these oils may also help to keep us feeling calmer and more logical.
A combination of B Vitamins and specific good bacteria could also be helpful. B vitamins help to support energy production: during exam time the brain is using a great deal of energy, so we need to ensure it is getting as much fuel as possible. Vitamin B5 specifically is helpful in supporting mental performance and focus.
B vitamins could be particularly helpful if taken alongside specific good bacteria – Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus casei, Lactobacillus rhamnosus and Bifidobacteria bifibum. There is a vast amount of research showing that our gut flora has a massive impact on our brain function, and these 4 bacteria have the most consistent research behind them = both for supporting brain function and memory, and for helping to reduce anxiety.
This makes a combination of B vitamins and L. acidophilus, L. casei, L. rhamnosus and B. bifidum the ultimate formula for those people going through exams.
Written by Jenny Logan DNMed. (Jenny is a nutritional therapist who has worked with clients in health food stores and private clinics for over 20 years.)