Natural ways to support your teen through exam season
EXAM SEASON! A trying time for parents – and of course for teenagers, who feel the pressure to perform and achieve. I remember well the worries and revision, anxiety and brain freeze, and I am now watching my own daughter go through the same. For this reason, I have decided to share my thoughts on the natural ways we can help and support our teens through this demanding time.
• ENCOURAGE THEM TO TAKE A BREAK: Generally, my daughter doesn’t need that much encouragement to stop revising – she is more than happy to be distracted! Unfortunately, this distraction usually comes from her phone or computer. Ideally a break from revision should be a complete break from screens, including phones: A walk, some exercise, or trying some relaxation breathing are all good options. Giving the brain, and focus, this sort of break is important to prevent them from feeling overwhelmed. It will also help to improve the uptake of information.
• MAKE SURE THEY GET SOME SLEEP: Sleep is king, and teenagers are renowned for always being tired. This is because they have such a lot going on. They are growing and developing, they are making great energy demands on their brain, and – if my daughter is anything to go by – they are not keen on going to bed. Try to have some screen free time before bed, and maybe discourage phones and screens from the bedroom – the blue light they emit can really disrupt sleep patterns.
• IT’S NOT TOO LATE FOR FISH OILS: According to studies carried out on school children, fish oils can help to improve concentration and focus. Therefore, taking a fish oil supplement could be very helpful during revision time.
• TRY PROBIOTICS: There has been a vast amount of research carried out into the benefits of good bacteria on our mental health and brain function. The gut and the brain are intimately linked. Did you know for example, that our good bacteria are responsible for producing much of the serotonin and GABA our brain needs? Serotonin is important to help keep our mood lifted; GABA is important to help keep us calm – both very much required by our children (and by us!). The bacteria strains with the most research behind them for supporting mood and memory are L. acidophilus, L. casei, L. rhamnosus and B. bifidum – so these are the key strains to try and get into your moody teens!
• LOOK FOR A COMBINATION OF B VITAMINS AND MAGNESIUM: B vitamins support the nervous system and normal energy production. Vitamin B5 particularly helps to support mental performance – concentration and focus. My dad always used to say that B vitamins should be mandatory for teens, as they help with mood and energy! Magnesium also supports the nervous system, as well as helping muscle function. Research has indicated that low levels of magnesium are linked to increased anxiety and poor sleep, again demonstrating why it is ideal for our teens. Some products do combine these nutrients with good bacteria – creating an easy one-a-day way to support them (and us, we can take it too!) through stressful times.
Written by Jenny Logan DNMed (Jenny is a nutritional therapist who has worked with clients in health food stores and private clinics for over 20 years).