Aside from my role as a holistic health coach, I am also a middle school guidance counselor in New York City. It is this time of year that students are so hyper and ready for their summer vacations, but also endure a lot of standardized testing. (Who’s nodding in agreement?) This requires focus, sitting still, and remaining quiet – an incredibly hard task for 10 – to – 13-year-olds. (I know, I know, I feel you.) Not to mention that with warmer weather this time of year comes after school treats like ice cream from the truck that waits outside our school everyday and the infamous unicorn frappuccino. That all leads to one problem –> sugar, sugar, and more sugar. In other words: squirmy bodies, tired minds, and short attention spans. Not a good combination for test taking. Not a good combo at all my friends.
I share the following strategies with my students to help them overcome testing anxiety; but, these strategies can and should be applied to all areas of one’s life. Some of these strategies will also seem really obvious; but, if you’re saying to yourself “I know all of this,” but are not actually putting these strategies into practice, than just knowing is not going to help you be your most successful self. Whether you are a 7th-grade student in New York City about to take a major exam, a 12th-grade Senior approaching decision day, or a 26-year-old planning her wedding, think of these as mindfulness strategies for an optimal life.
- A good night’s rest is a recipe for success. Specifically:
- School-aged children (ages 6-13) 9 to 11 hours of sleep
- Teenagers (ages 14-17) 8 to 10 hours of sleep
- Young adults (18-25) 7 to 9 hours of sleep
- Eat clean, real, whole foods.
- Breakfast idea: Oatmeal with fruit and nuts topping – whole grain oats sustain energy levels and fiber from fruit keeps you full longer.
- Snack idea: Veggies with hummus or guacamole – It is ideal to have 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day, and eating a variety increases the nutrients, vitamins, and minerals you put into your body. Consuming healthy fats and plant-based proteins like hummus or guacamole are a guilt-free, natural, and delicious way to feel full. (Just be mindful of the ingredients if you are not making the dips at home)
- Main meal idea: Zucchini Linguini Turkey Bolognese – a lunch or dinner filled with vegetables and lean protein will keep your blood-sugar levels from spiking so you won’t get a sugar rush then crash. Eliminating sugar helps sustain energy during the day and does not disrupt your sleep at night.
- Get moving!
- 30-minutes of activity every day is ideal. And it doesn’t even have to be 30-minutes at once. If you have a big test or event coming up that is causing you some extra stress or anxiety, increasing your amount of exercise a few days before the event will increase the amount of oxygen flow to your brain and help you to de-stress.
- Deep breathing and spiritual practices.
- Slow. it. down. It sounds so cheesy, but taking a few moments to close your eyes and breathe slowly increases the supply of oxygen to your brain and stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which promotes a state of calmness.
- Breathing techniques help you feel connected to your body—it brings your awareness away from the worries in your head and quiets your mind.
- Using calming essential oils like lavender, rose, or chamomille are considered a nervous system restorative and helps with inner peace, sleep, restlessness, irritability, panic attacks, nervous stomach and general nervous tension.
- Surround yourself with love and positivity.
- Stress feeds stress, worry feeds worry, and positive energy feeds positive energy. So find those who support you, love you, cheer you on, calm you down, and spread all the good vibes.
As a health coach I will not give advice and let you on your way. I am here to teach you how to put all these tools, tips, tricks, and strategies into an effective and manageable practice. If there is another strategy that works well for you, awesome! I would love to hear how you manage your stress and anxiety. Share with The Little Clementine community and together we can fight stress and find balance.
Good luck to all those taking exams in the coming weeks and months!