Just thinking about exams got your chest feeling a little tight? It can be a pretty intense time and the last thing you want to do is let exam stress or looming assignment deadlines get the better of you. So to help make sure your mid-semester freak out doesn’t turn into fully-fledged anxiety, here are 10 science-backed tips to help you, as John Farnham would say, take the pressure down.
You know who that’s a problem for? Future self
It turns out Ted and Marshall from How I Met Your Mother might have been onto something. New research published in the journal Cognition and Emotion suggests that picturing yourself in the future could help to alleviate stress. The research suggests that if teenagers adopt a ‘this too shall pass’ attitude and mentally project themselves into the future, it could help them deal with stressful situations. Because you know who could handle a problem like that? Future self.
Get a pet. Or borrow one
If you already have a pet, great; if not, you might want to borrow one. Or become a dog walker. A 2008 study by researchers at Ohio State University in the US found college students may handle stressful situations better if they have a pet. The research showed students who chose to live with at least one dog, one cat, or a combination of the two were less likely to report feeling lonely and depressed; something they directly attributed to their beloved pet. They also believed their pets helped them get through difficult times in life.
Get out in nature
There’s a reason going for a hike or walking barefoot on the beach feels so good. The gentle crashing of waves or the sound of the wind in the trees can physically change our mind and bodily systems, helping us to relax. But if you can’t get out for a break, Researchers at Brighton and Sussex Medical School (BSMS) found that playing ‘natural sounds’ can also help to promote relaxation and wellbeing. So go on, subscribe to that birds chirping Spotify playlist. You know you want to.
Eat yours greens
We’ve long heard that eating our greens will help us grow up big and strong, but new research shows they might reduce our levels of stress, too. Research published in the British Medical Journal Open found that people who ate between three and seven serves of vegetables a day had a lower risk of psychological stress than those who ate one serve or less. Hello green smoothie.
Forget yoga. Prebiotics might be an easier and more effective way to reduce stress. Prebiotics are a type of non-digestible fibre that bacteria feed on. They help stimulate the growth and survival of good bacteria and discourage the growth of harmful organisms. Acute stress can have an impact on the gut and, according to a new study published in the online journal, Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, prebiotics may help to reverse that damage. Taking prebiotics regularly may help to restore beneficial gut bacteria and promote restful sleep after a period of high stress. Prebiotic-rich foods include bananas, soy beans, Jerusalem artichokes, whole oats, wheat, barley, garlic, flaxseeds, legumes, tomatoes and green vegetables.
Have a Quiet one
Deadline looming? Might be a good reason not to get lit up this weekend. Drinking too much alcohol can cause an imbalance of chemicals and nutrients in the body, which in turn can lead to anxiety and depression. And that’s pretty much the last thing you want ahead of an important exam or assignment deadline.
Meditation is pretty much a mental health golden ticket. And now research from Georgetown University in the US has found that objective physiological evidence that mindfulness meditation combats anxiety and can also improve resilience to stress.
Have a Facebook curfew
Social media is a great tool, but when it starts disrupting your life it’s probably a sign to take a step back. According to recent research published today in the Journal of Youth Studies, one in five young people regularly wakes up in the night to send or check messages on social media. This sleep interruption means teenagers are three times more likely to wake up feeling tired and continue to feel tired at school. These students also reported feeling less happy than their well-rested peers.
Change Your Relationship Status With Facebook
Ever feel like having to manage your social media is a stress in itself? You’re not alone. According to a recent US study into teens’ social media use, 58 per cent of teens who use social media have taken at least one break from the platforms, with 20 per cent of those saying they were tired of always feeling like they had to keep up with what was going on. Teens who took voluntary breaks reported feeling better for the experience and 23 per cent of teens who have not taken a break from social media have wanted to. It’s not surprising given the more time young adults spend on social media, the more likely they are to report feeling depressed, according to research published in the journal Depression and Anxiety.
Get Social, IRL
Studying can be lonely work. You’re locked away in hour bedroom for hours, barely speaking to anyone. Loneliness and social isolation may represent a greater public health hazard than obesity, according to research presented at the 125th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association. So if you’re feeling like you need some company, perhaps start a study group or go and study at the library. Or, better yet, take a break and catch up with friends for brunch. Because really, there’s nothing a coffee and some smashed avo can’t fix.