It's that time of year again! Whether it's exams for you or at any challenging time, did you know that certain foods can help you boost your performance, concentrate better and improve your sleep? Want to know which aromatherapy oils and flower essences can give you an edge?
Keep your blood sugar steady
Since your brain cannot store its primary fuel glucose - you need to eat regularly to provide it with a steady supply to function well. Your brain cells need twice as much energy as the other cells in your body. Running low on glucose compromises your brain's ability to concentrate, learn and remember.
Give yourself the best chance with a protein-rich breakfast, like scrambled eggs or sardines on wholemeal toast. Combine it with a glass of fresh orange juice, and you'll be off to a great start! Have a bowl of porridge first, if your nerves need soothing on the morning of an exam.
Many practitioners recommend Avena Sativa, the tincture of oats, which is highly nutritive and supportive of the nervous system. It is one of the best remedies for "feeding" the central nervous system, especially when under stress. Take 10-15 drops in a glass of water, morning and evening, throughout the study and exam period. (Contact Linda for details of suppliers).
Lunch is important
To keep your blood sugar nice and steady throughout the day, it's a good idea to have a snack around 11.00am ideally, a handful of your favourite mix of nuts and dried fruit. If you go for chocolate, biscuits or a fizzy drink, you may get a buzz for half an hour but you'll crash later and feel worse than you did before. Lots of people complain of feeling sluggish and tired in the afternoons, especially if they went for fried food at lunchtime. Fat takes longer to digest and uses up your energy. You need protein again at lunchtime, perhaps a chicken or turkey sandwich with salad. One of my favourites is date, banana and peanut butter or cream cheese!
You do need to drink lots of water! By the time you feel thirsty, you are probably already dehydrated enough to affect your mental and physical performance. One study discovered that schoolchildren achieved better results in class when they drank more water.
Nourish your brain
Great brain foods are:
Get a good night's sleep
The night before an exam, ensure you eat plenty of vegetables and wholegrains.
Basil is both tonic and calming to the nervous system, and soothes frazzled nerves. You can buy pesto sauce ready made to stir through freshly cooked pasta, or make your own:
Combine all ingredients in a processor or blender, process until smooth. Pesto will keep, covered, in refrigerator for up to one week.
Don't eat a heavy meal any later than two hours before bed. Definitely avoid any foods that you know are difficult for you to digest. You may not know that some foods can cause sleeplessness for susceptible people: bacon, cheese, smoked meats and red wine for example can contain tyramine which tends to keep you awake at night.
It should go without saying that coffee is best avoided in the evenings. Drink a soothing cup of camomile or valerian tea instead. It's true that warm milk taken at bed-time can help you sleep, because it contains tryptophan, a sleep-inducing amino acid. Other tryptophan rich foods are almonds, bananas, turkey, dates and cottage cheese. Try this Almond and Banana Milkshake:
To make almond milk (easier than it sounds and really nutritious brain food! It makes a great start to the day if you're not keen on eating much at breakfast time, or you can take it to drink with a packed lunch)
soak one cup of almonds in three cups of water for 24 hours, then drain and rinse
add to the blender with three cups of water, six pitted or chopped dates, half a tsp of vanilla (if liked) and blend all together until smooth. You can also use almond extract or a pinch of grated nutmeg for added flavour
When you set your almonds to soak, pop three bananas into the freezer at the same time. Peel them and put them in a freezer bag or sealed plastic container. When you're ready to prepare your milkshake, take them out and allow them to soften slightly for a few minutes. Chop each banana up into smaller pieces and feed them into the blender while you whiz them up with the almond milk.
Feed your brain with fresh air too!
Get out for a walk. To stay alert, you need to oxygenate your brain by exercising and eating little and often.
AROMATHERAPY OILS FOR EXAM TIME
The wonderfully reviving fragrance of Basil essential oil gives the mind strength and clarity whilst helping to combat fatigue. Use Basil essential oil in a vapouriser or oil burner whilst studying or whenever long periods of concentration are needed. A drop of Basil on a tissue can be taken into the exam and sniffed as needed.
Contraindications: Basil essential oil is not for use during pregnancy. Can irritate sensitive skin.
Aromatherapy oils are available from many stockists, or you can order online.
Valerie Wormwood in her book The Fragrant Pharmacy suggests the following blends of oils:
Sailing Through a blend to increase your powers of memory and help you concentrate, even if you are nervous. Mix the ingredients together and use six drops in the bath before you go to the exam.
Pre-exam blend use the following formula in a nightly bath for at least a week before the exam; it will keep your nerves under control.
The Night Before 'Sweet Dreams' Blend it's too late to cram more facts into your brain now. Try to forget it and spend the time doing something peaceful that you enjoy like having a bath! Use 6 drops in a bath just before bedtime. If someone is kind enough to give you a massage, use 5 drops in a dessertspoon of vegetable oil.
FLOWER ESSENCES TO HELP
Ian White's Australian Bush Flower Combination Essence Calm and Clear is a good one if you are overwhelmed at exam time or at any time of stress. This essence will help if you:
The positive outcomes of the essence are:
The essence helps to find time for one's self, to relax without external pressures and demands, to wind down and enjoy relaxing pursuits.It contains Bush Flower Essences: Black-eyed Susan, Boronia, Bottlebrush, Bush Fuchsia, Crowea, Jacaranda, Little Flannel Flower and Paw Paw.
Cognis Essence gives clarity and focus when working, speaking, reading or studying. It balances the intuitive and cognitive processes and helps integrate ideas and information. Excellent for study or pursuits that require intense focus. It assists problem solving by improving access to the Higher Self, which stores all past knowledge and experiences. It's great for:
and helps you to:
It contains the Bush Flower Essences: Bush Fuchsia, Isopogon, Jacaranda, Paw Paw and Sundew.
Rescue RemedyFor those panicky moments, Dr Bach created an emergency combination containing five flower remedies - Impatiens, Star of Bethlehem, Cherry Plum, Rock Rose and Clematis.Rescue Remedy combines these five Bach Original Flower Remedies and can be used to help you cope with immediate everyday situations such as going to the dentist, interviews, making a complaint or wedding day nerves. It can also help in times of crisis or trauma such as bereavement, a relationship breakdown or redundancy.
It's now also available in a convenient unbreakable mini-aerosol format, which is also alcohol free: great for kids and sensitive people.
Of course, homeopathy also has its anti-panic remedies! Take AAA (Triple A) 30c each morning for 3 days before the exam if you are extremely anxious, or your mind goes blank, to help you focus and maintain composure.
WISHING YOU THE BEST OF LUCK!
About the author:
Linda has been studying and practising homeopathy for 16 years and offers distance consultations by email and telephone, as well as running a busy general practice in Bucks. She is warm, informative and intuitive, and often blends flower essences, Reiki, EFT and homeopathy to create the perfect approach for each unique individual.
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