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Work Smart, Score More | Health

It’s that time of the year again when students across the country find themselves buried under the weight of books, parental pressure and the society’s expectations. Board exam-related stress is at its peak, as evident in the rising number of students seeking professional tackle the surmounting pressure.

“We have seen a spike in the incidence of students visiting psychological clinics to deal with their performance anxiety,” says Dr Mimansa Singh Tanwar, clinical psychologist, head, Fortis School Mental Health Programme. In a recent incident, for example, a 15-year-old from Mumbai sought psychological help after she panicked and forgot what to write during a preliminary test.

Considering the pressure that the kids face during these months from all possible fronts, such cases of exam-related stress and anxiety are far too many. Often, this translates into sleepless nights, reduced hunger, fatigue and other physical setbacks for them. The good news, however, is that there are multiple ways to overcome these roadblocks and sail through. Experts help break it down.

Downtime is a must

“The average attention span of teenagers is 40 minutes, so taking a break every 40 minutes can prove beneficial. Run errands, walk your pet or just mingle in other chores for a couple of minutes,” advises Dr Rishi Gautam, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry, George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC.

A sedentary lifestyle can accentuate stress levels while also impacting one’s physical health. Hence, taking regular breaks for some movement is imperative, says Dr Tanwar. She adds, “Avoid sitting for long hours and take short breaks as they are important to reboot.”

Setting and following a timetable, breaking down tasks and setting short targets are also important. “Seek downtime regularly. Take time off in a week that is devoid of academics. Go out for a movie or meet family and friends on that day,” Gautam suggests.

Let your eyes rest

With e-lessons becoming the norm and an increased reliance on the internet and social media for academic help, screen-time is at an alarming high. “Too much screen time can lead to double vision, headaches and difficulty concentrating as well as give you dry and itchy eyes,” says Dr Neeraj Sanduja, ophthalmologist and eye surgeon. He explains, “When you stare at a screen for long, you blink far less, which causes your eyes to dry up. One can easily combat the Computer Vision Syndrome with some simple measures. Adjust room lighting or screen illumination and enhance the contrast on your screen. Use the 20-20-20 rule to reduce strain: Take a 20-second break every 20 minutes by staring at an item 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This provides a respite for your eyes and helps them refocus.”

Identify your challenges

Students must reflect on the challenges they are facing while studying. These could range from having short attention spans or issues with memory retention. They can only be addressed once they are identified. “Be aware of the challenges you are experiencing and talk about them with family or teachers. Seek support from peers, validate each other’s anxieties, be supportive and kind,” says Gautam, adding, “Parents can create a welcoming environment so that the children feel comfortable enough to share their vulnerabilities without fear of retribution or punishment.”

Eat right

1. Never skip meals. Doing so will leave you irritable and low on energy. Eating at the right time is crucial, too.

2. Snack healthy and keep almonds, roasted makhanas and seeds on your desk.

3. Have foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids as these are potent memory enhancers. A few sources include fish, walnuts, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, soy bean oil, etc.

4. Cut down on caffeine. It can reduce clarity of thinking.

5. Avoid junk foods, as they can make you sluggish and disrupt your concentration.

6. Drink lots of water. This will keep your body alert and help in the proper functioning of the brain.

7. Eat healthy carbs and fruits to stay full.

(Inputs by dietitian Garima Goyal and nutritionist Tripti Tandon)

Practise these asanas

To break free from stress, practice Anulom vilom (single nasal breathing) and vibhagiya pranayama (sectional breathing)

To increase concentration, practice Vrikshasana, (tree pose), natrajasana (dancer pose), trataka kriya (gazing at candle or a lamp flame)

To keep one’s mind healthy, practice Padhastasana (forward bend), ardha chakrasana, (backward bend), ardha halasana (leg raises)

(Inputs by Gaurav Chauhan, Ayush Ministry-certified yoga protocol instructor)

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