Healthy Life: Preparing your child for exams

Exam times can be a particularly stressful time for students, however, there are practical ways to minimize those overwhelming feelings of anxiety and pressure. So, when it comes to successfully preparing for the exam period, students should take on a multi-disciplinary approach that combines nutritional, academic, and psychological aspects to studying. In doing so, students can learn how to maximize their brain performance and effectively manage their anxiety. Here are a few evidence-based tips to help students get through exam time:

Nutritionally speaking…
Eat proper meals.  Take a break and enjoy a good meal loaded with brain boosting vegetables, good quality protein (like eggs, tofu, chicken, fish, legumes, nuts and seeds), along with whole grain carbohydrates (like pasta, quinoa, brown rice and fresh brown breads). 
Make snacks count. Eat wholesome snacks that boost energy, such as nuts and seeds, fresh fruit, cut-up veggies or pretzels with hummus dip, or pita chips with a side of guacamole.  Avoid nutritionally empty snacks like chips, chocolate bars, cookies and candies, which will only make you feel sluggish.  
Water water water! Dehydration can make you feel drowsy and unable to focus.  Keep a full water bottle handy while studying. Avoid high sugar drinks like juices, sodas (diet or regular!), and Gatorade. Energy drinks like Red Bull should be completely avoided.   
Eat before the exam.  An empty stomach combined with exam stress can cause weakness and dizziness.  Anything simple like a banana, a smoothie, or even keeping a small baggy of dry cereal in a pocket to munch on slowly, will help put the strength in your body and brain to perform. 

Academically speaking…
Create a schedule: On a monthly calendar, write in when each exam is. Then work backwards and decide how much you should be studying each subject every week in order to be prepared. Identify which day(s) are best for studying on your calendar as well. 
Organize and strategize: Organize all the materials you have for each exam subject. Then determine what study strategy works best for each one. Perhaps creating cue cards for memorizing concepts or developing your own review package with past assignments/quizzes/tests for math. 
Take breaks: As strange as that may sound, taking short breaks every so often will help increase your concentration. This will allow your studying to be more efficient and effective.

Psychologically speaking…
Acceptance: Exam stress often stems from worrying about making mistakes. It is important to accept that perfection is a fallacy and that the process is more important than the end result.
Be Positive: State of mind is directly correlated with outcome. When preparing for exams, routinely check-in with your internal state and ensure that you are fuelled up with positivity and optimism. 
Breathe: Part of managing stress is learning how to breathe. For example, 2-to-1 breathing (exhaling twice as long as inhaling) will quiet your nervous system and keep you calm. When you are more relaxed, you will be able to retain information and retrieve knowledge more successfully. 

BFL (Brain Friendly Learning) is a child and family-focused educational and wellness Center located in Westmount since 2014. Their multidisciplinary and experienced team of professionals work together to ensure that each client’s needs are exceeded. The BFL Team is comprised of Ilana Chernack, Tina Roth, Ali Kirstein, and Jennifer Abdulezer.