Exam time is notorious for late nights of sugar and caffeine fueled binges. Your stress levels soar and your sleep quantity plummets. This handy venn diagram explains the delicate balance between study, sleep and social life. I have compiled a list of natural medicine tips to help you cruise through the exam period light a Jedi!
- Feed your brain – Instead of reaching for that family size block of chocolate and the whole bag of M&Ms to get you through a night of study look instead to increasing your intake of nature’s brain foods. Traditional Chinese Medicine considers that optimal thinking and optimal digestion are related. Take yourself away from your books to eat and eat foods that you know make you feel well. Nuts (walnuts even look like a brain!), seeds and fish are good sources of omega 3 fatty acids which are essential to maintaining good nervous system function. Increasing your vegetable and wholegrain intake will keep your energy levels more stable than a sugar binge will, so that you’ll feel energised yet calm. For short burst energy snacks pick some snacks such as berries, sliced fruit or dried fruits. Keep up the water too – your brain needs to be adequately hydrated to perform at its best!
- Sleep on it – The time when you lose the most sleep is often when you need it most. If you can, make sure that you have covered (or at least skimmed) the content you need at least the day before your exam and then aim for 8 hours sleep that night. You will be calmer, have greater focus and clarity, and improved memory recall.
- Vaporise essential oils – There has been some fascinating research on the use of smells and memory recall via the limbic system. We’ve all experienced a time when a smell has invoked a memory from our past. Use this to your advantage as you study. Vaporise the essential oil of your choosing while you study a particular topic. When you enter the exam room put a drop of that same essential on a tissue and tuck it into your shirt. This may increase your memory recall from when you studied that content. The oils that are most often associated with concentration, focus and memory are lemon, peppermint, basil and rosemary.
- Rosemary for remembrance – This herb is known as the memory herb. It is associated in folklore with remembrance and is used on Remembrance Day for this reason. You can use it straight from your garden in cooking, baking or even as a herbal tea (it combines beautifully with lemon myrtle). A study was conducted examining the effects of rosemary on cognitive function. One group was given cold tomato juice to drink while the other had the same tomato juice with added rosemary. The rosemary group performed significantly better than the plain tomato juice group. And interestingly, the plain tomato juice seemed to have a negative impact on cognitive function – so keep clear of it during exams.
- Become a herb nerd – There are several herbs that have been researched extensively for concentration, focus and memory function. Two of the most popular ones are ginkgo biloba and bacopa. These herbs are available in tablet form or can be developed by an herbalist into an individualised herbal formula to suit your specific situation. The addition of ginseng is an excellent way to boost energy levels for late night study sessions without the use of strong coffee.
And if the above tips aren’t enough, make sure to check in with your health practitioner to assist your focus and recall. Acupuncture usually works a treat at times of high stress!
To book an appointment at the clinic or further information on Chinese Medicine contact Dr Sarah George (Acupuncture). Sarah is a practitioner of acupuncture (AHPRA registered), massage therapy and natural health.