5 Top Tips to help the brain work better under exam stress: Exam Stress – GCSE’s, A’Levels, SATS, end of academic year assessments, are all just around the corner. Young people everywhere, have been revising their socks off, and now the weeks of assessments are upon us. STRESS! Are your children stressed? I know my sons are. I have been offering simple tips that should help to calm things down a bit. Maybe others could do with a few ideas to help them, too.
Did you know that there is a very simple explanation for that ‘my mind has gone completely blank’ experience, when you are stressed? Brain function just seems to freeze. When stressed, the fight or flight response triggers in the brain and it goes into survival mode. Common sense and clarity of thought can go flying out the window, and seem impossible to pull back. The hormones in our body go out of kilter, and the neural pathways to the front part of our brain, stop firing efficiently. It can be extremely difficult to think clearly under these circumstances. You may feel sick, overwhelmed with sensory input and disorientated. Maybe you start shallow breathing, and hyperventilating, or sweating.
So, what sort of things can you do to calm things down? Your brain needs help to get the connections firing to the front of your brain again.
TOP TIP No. 1: HOOK-UP
Sitting in your chair do the following:
Cross your ankles.
Hug your left rib-cage, with your right hand.
Fold your left hand over your right and hug the upper arm of your right arm.
Breath in deeply and slowly, to a count of 4, and out slowly, to a count of 6.
Sit like this for a few minutes, and keep breathing slowly, until you can feel yourself calm down. (PS, you can still be thinking about what you need to do, while you are sitting in this position.)
TOP TIP No. 2: Massage Your Ears
Massage, slowly from the side of the head, out to the edges of the ear. Work from the top of the ear, down to the bottom.
Imagine you are trying to uncurl the ear. Cover as much of both surfaces of the ear as possible, in front and behind the ear.
Repeat 4 times
This helps to stimulate both your left and right hemispheres of the brain. It should help calm your system, too, and reduce some of the stress you may be feeling in your neck, shoulder and spine. It should also help you feel more alert and connected.
The ears mirror the hemispheres of the brain, and the edge mirrors your spine. This is why this one helps.
TOP TIP No. 3: ESR (Emotional Stress Release)
This is actually something we do quite instinctively.
Lean on your desk, and place your elbows on the desk.
Lightly, spread your fingers across your forehead, covering as much of the surface as possible – specially between your eyebrows, and across the centre of your forehead.
Hold lightly, and breath in deeply, for a count of 4, and out for a count of 6. Think through anything that is bothering you, or the thing your mind has gone blank about.
This light touch helps to pull your brain’s awareness back to the front of your brain. (Pre-frontal cortex), and out of the middle of your brain, where the fight or flight response has been spiralling.
TOP TIP No. 4: Trace the Infinity Symbol
Use your finger tip to trace an infinity symbol on the desk in front of you.
back up to the middle. Then over to the top right hand side, and around.
Repeat this four times, and follow your finger with your eyes.
2. Then trace up to the right-hand side, and around.
3. Swap hands and repeat.
4. Then do both hands together.
All the time, follow what you are doing, with your eyes.
This is another way of stimulating both your left and right hemispheres to work better, together.
TOP TIP No. 5: Chest Thump
Using your hands closed into loose fists, gently tap on your chest, on either side of your chest bone. (Sternum)
Tap on one side, then the other, in an alternating, rhythmical pattern.
This can help release stress, and raise your energy levels.
OR, just use one hand and tap in the middle of your chest, in a gentle, rhythmical fashion, until you feel calmer.
These tips come from a range of therapies, such as Rhythmic Movement Training, Brain Gym and Touch for Health. I am sure they come up in a range of different fields, and they do work. Give them a go – and GOOD LUCK!