Top tips for less exam stress

It doesn’t matter how many we’ve sat or how much we’ve studied, exams are simply stressful.

Share these four tips with anyone going through exam time, for happier and healthier studies.

1. The elixir of life

Of course, it’s the simple H2O. Water comprises around 60 -70% of our body weight and we need it to regulate body temperature, cleanse our systems of waste materials and to help our cells communicate.
Just like a car we need to refuel regularly, so grab yourself a special glass or water bottle and make sure it’s topped up.
If you fancy making it a bit zingy, add some slices of lemon or try herbal teas. Remember if you want to feel that mojo working get hydrating!

2. Align yourself for success

Revision involves a whole lot of sitting down. Make sure your desk is set up to support you to work safely. This might mean a new PC set up, changing your chair, using a wireless keyboard or sorting out your stationery.
Crossed legs are a BIG no-no! Sit with both feet on the floor (if they don’t reach use a foot rest or a ream of paper.
Are your elbows in line with the desk? Shoulders relaxed and low? Check your chin isn’t jutting out and overworking your upper back, shoulder and neck muscles.
It may feel strange at first but persevere and your hips, back, shoulders and neck will be better supported.

3. Desk time disco

Our bodies weren’t designed to sit still for long periods. Get up, go for a stroll and stretch those limbs. Not just your legs – wiggle your hips and bum!
Reach your arms up like your are having your first stretch of the day. Try some nice smooth shoulder rotations, inviting the elbows, then the hands to do the same.
Finally, try slow gentle neck rotations. The slower you do this the more you can really feel into the sensations that your body is experiencing.
If you can get some tunes on, have yourself a bit of a boogie!

Remember! Now might be a good time to have a sip of water …..

4. Fuel for success

Does your diet give you zest and vitality – or leave you feeling empty, with permanent munchies and cravings for salty, sugary food? Do the office biscuits disappear in a whirl?
Now’s the time you really need those vital nutrients. Keep healthy snacks – try nuts, seeds, dried fruit and chopped up fresh fruit – at your desk. Mix up the colours, textures and flavours to keep things interesting.

Photo by Adolfo Félix on Unsplash

Forest bathing: Leaf your stress at home

Forest bathing

Forest bathing. Nothing to do with water, everything to do with trees.

Yes, it’s actually a ‘thing’ – and it’s becoming increasingly popular. The phrase ‘shinrinyoku’ or ‘forest bathing’ first popped up in Japan in the 1980s, when the Forest Agency of Japan dreamed it up as part of a campaign to encourage people to appreciate the health benefits of relaxing in nature.

What can forest bathing do?

For the past couple of years, experts have been backing up this movement by conducting scientific tests to measure what effect forest bathing really has on our mood, stress levels and immune system.

Early results show that ‘green time’ may boost the immune system, including increased production of cancer-fighting cells.

A Profile of Mood States (POMS) test recorded decreased scores for anxiety, depression and anger after forest bathing.

Bringing it home

The UK doesn’t have as much forest coverage of Japan but advocates say anywhere with a decent tree canopy is good enough to grab the benefits of forest bathing.

We know instinctively that being out in nature makes us feel great. The good news is, anyone can reap the rewards. It’s not physical exertion that delivers the goods, it’s focusing mindfully on your surroundings.

Simply be present and listen to the sounds of the woods – the birdsong, the wind in the trees, the rustle of small creatures. Really notice the bright colours, the more subtle shades and the textures. Breathe deeply, being aware of the different smells. If possible, indulge the sense of taste too, by foraging berries or other edible forest foods (or pack a picnic!).

Unplug from your phone

If you want to get maximum immune-boosting benefit, remember this is your ‘unplugged’ time. Leave your phone, laptop, iPod or any other device at home and focus on getting fresh air into your lungs.

Increasing your oxygen levels will boost your energy at a cellular level. If you’re breathing more slowly and deeply, your whole being will be more soothed too.

Step it up

Why not go the whole hog and try walking barefoot, to really add that extra zing?

Check out this blog post to discover more about how going barefoot can helping to boost red blood cells, improve sleep patterns and give us an overall lift in our wellbeing.

Further reading:

www.shinrin-yoku.org/

Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

Don’t stress the small stuff

My six essential stress-busting resources ……

Don’t stress the small stuff

Not all stress is all bad. We need a touch of healthy stress to keep us moving – and sometimes to activate that life-saving flight or fight response.

But modern life doesn’t see us battling wild animals on a daily basis, no matter how hectic the school run might feel. So we certainly don’t want to be in a constant high state of alert that means we’re unable to relax both body and mind.

But how can you stress less? Or at least learn how to ditch the stress over the small stuff?

Much of my own negative stress used to come from not being able to let go of work and feeling the need to control things. I needed structure and certainty – and that led to one of my biggest learnings: the only thing we can be certain of is uncertainty.

A helping hand

I learned first hand that you can’t give from an empty cup. These days, I have lots of stress-busting techniques that work for me, including receiving massage, practicing yoga, walking in nature, dancing, spending quality ‘me’ time with myself and with family and friends.

At The Loft I’m here to give you practical help and support by offering a host of Calm Works services for your body mind wellbeing. Choose what you think will work best for you – perhaps weekly yoga, a monthly massage or meditation, bespoke one to one wellness support, an Inner Calm session, a mini mindfulness retreat or a residential retreat?

I also encourage you to take inspiration from my following my top six resources for beating stress.

1. Discover your patterns: triggers and responses

What sets off your feelings of stress? How do you respond to these triggers on a physical, mental, emotional and energetic level?  

Sometimes a huge breakthrough can come when we recognise that some things are beyond our control and the only thing we can ever influence is how our response to situations.

For example, how do you feel when your train home is delayed?

Choice 1. I can get niggled and annoyed, moan about the awful situation with fellow passengers and give the ticket inspector a hard time.

Choice 2. I can accept that the journey will be delayed and make the necessary calls, eg arrange for the kids to stay with friends and cancel social plans, then pick up a cuppa and read my book while waiting.

Which option would you choose? How can we switch our mindset to respond differently about our triggers?

2. Get resourced up!

Go online and search for inspiration. There are oodles of resources on the world wide web from quotes to pictures e.g. pinterest is a good resource but beware you could get very distracted!

There are websites like www.fmtv.com who offer a range of documentaries, films, recipes and exercises to give you ideas. Plus they have free taster periods.

Create your own personal library of informative, inspiring and uplifting books, films, music and recipes! Which lead me onto ….

3. Be-ing inspired

I’ve gathered a selection of inspiring and through provoking books, films, online resources that help me to keep calm. I find I return to the work of Eckhart Tolle, Susan Jeffers and Brene Brown if I’m feeling overwhelmed or tense. ( Yes I still am working on this!)

Eckhart Tolle is perhaps best-known for The Power of Now but Tolle has written several books to explain his work. His website has more details and online teachings.

As he says: “Wherever you are, be there totally. If you find your here and now intolerable and it makes you unhappy, you have three options: remove yourself from the situation, change it, or accept it totally.”

In Embracing Uncertainty by Susan Jeffers she shows us how life can be fulfilling and rewarding not in spite of but because of the uncertainty. This book has been described as providing a safety net in a world of constant change.

If you prefer to listen or watch, check out Brene Brown’s wonderful TED talks on vulnerability, courage, authenticity and shame and read about her research on wholeheartedness. She delivers her research with humour too! They’re all here.

4. Meditation 

During stressful times, I know I need to sit and just ‘be’, rather than giving into the temptation of running around ‘doing’. Here is a recent blog post I wrote with simple tips to get you started.

When I create space to do this, it always gives me more support. I’ve done Transcendental Meditation (TM) courses and also yogic meditation and what I love about meditation is there are no special pieces of equipment. All you need is yourself.

However, there are great benefits to community and group meditation. How about joining in a monthly session at The Loft?

5. Mindfulness training

First and foremost I took mindfulness training to help myself – but it quickly became apparent that this would be helpful for clients too.

In the early days I used a form of reward chart to track my mindfulness time: nowadays many of the practices are completely embedded in my day to day life. It’s that consistency of commitment that has made the difference.

6. Coaching

Coaching has helped me to learn how my thoughts were either supporting me or reinforcing untrue concepts I’d formed about myself from conditioning influences in my life.

Having an expert listen to my answers and then share their insights has been incredibly helpful. It’s brought about some subtle yet profound changes. My go to coach is York-based Jules Wyman who specialises in confidence.

Whatever you choose to do, remember you do have a choice about your mindset and how you spend your time. Keep your basic wellbeing foundations in place when you are feeling off balance and stressed.

Fuel yourself well, hydrate and move your body to get your hormones working. Override your brain by simply smiling which can help to release endorphins aka happy hormones!

For more tips on beating stress, check out my three-point plan here. Need support? Contact me at hello@calmworks.co.uk

As always wishing you wellness

Joe

🙂

Spring clean time: body, mind and spirit

Abdominal Massage – Calm Works

Clear out out the cupboards, fill bags for charity, empty the loft, tackle storage spaces, power through that pile of paperwork. When it comes to spring-cleaning, it’s easy to see they physical stuff (unless, of course, you choose to turn a blind eye to it and squeeze the door closed on it).

It’s not so easy to see the inner clutter we gather over time – but this can have a huge impact on how effeciently our bodily systems work.

My colleague Sally Duffin from Nutrition in York would be showing you her poo chart now. You might think it’s a bit ‘ew’ but your poo is a great indicator of whether your system is running smoothly or not.

With perfect timing, this month is IBS Awareness Month.

IBS can show itself in many symptoms, from bloating, cramps to both diarrhoea and constipation. We know stress can play a major role in the smooth runnings of our bowels – if we are feeling emotionally delicate, the guts will often be a little fragile.

A soothing abdominal massage performed with oil can really help to soothe you deeply. Letting go of tension in the guts could also help your digestive system run better – as will drinking more water and eating enough fibre.

The positive and caring touch from a massage may help to release stored tension and anxiety within the tissues. Nerve receptors in the skin communicate with the brain to release more relaxation hormones, creating a general feeling of comfort.

There is something very touching about receiving a belly massage. Essentially, this area is the centre of our being and usually stays wrapped up under layers. We rarely pay it any attention unless we have a stomach ache and that’s when we’re naturally drawn to hold and hug it, providing self care.

But why wait until you are in pain or discomfort to feel the benefits of an abdominal massage? How else might a belly massage help you?

Interestingly in yogic philosophy, the abdominal area is one of seven key energy centres (known as chakras in Sanskrit), situated along the length of the spine.

This energy centre is called the solar plexus (or manipura chakra) it is an area associated with personal power, will, joy, self confidence and the element of fire. It’s closely connected to the lumbar spine, eyesight and movement, as well the digestive organs and adrenals.

On an energetic level feeling blocked or imbalanced in your solar plexus could make you feel dis-eased, out of sorts, unhappy and lacking. Imagine how you might feel if you received a session to clear away this sort of rubbish?

Certainly regular abdominal massage can be hugely beneficial, especially when combined with self massage and guided relaxation. Occasionally, the breath may deepen during a treatment, as other tensions (physical, mental, emotional) are released. As with all treatments at The Loft, clients are in control of the session, dictating the depth and speed of how I work.

I offer bespoke abdominal massage treatments so do let me know if this is of interest to you and if you’d like to explore expert nutritional support, why not make an appointment with Sally at Nutrition in York? We can work together with you looking after your wellbeing from the inside out!  

To find out more about massage and to get in touch, click here.