University stress, Dissertation, Summer exams and Graduation

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The summer semester is in full swing; and if the weather hasn’t started hotting up yet, university life certainly has. This is a busy semester, and that’s an understatement. There are a million and one things you need to do; as well as the other million and one things you want to do. And somehow you have to do it all! On top of this, there’s a feeling of fresh hope and possibility in the air. But getting in the way of all the enjoyable activities tugging at your social tastebuds is the small matter of dissertations, deadlines and exams.

So what lies between now and that final exam, essay or dissertation deadline and then freedom?! A lot of hard work for sure. But hard work doesn’t need to be a daunting or stressful prospect. With preparation, organisation and a mindful approach; and being proactive about taking care of yourself and your health; this next stint of university life; well, it’s in the bag.

Anyone who says this semester isn’t stressful would be lying but it’s not necessary to jump on this ‘stress bandwagon’. It is possible to remove the negative inner turmoil of stress and to manage all of the crucial work you need to do. As with most everything; it’s all about the balance. By the end of this semester you’ll probably find you have the relevant transferable ‘juggling’ skills to ‘run away with the circus’; and if this isn’t quite what you had in mind for the holidays, at least you’ll be able to relax, have some fun and give yourself a pat on the back for how you calmly managed your way through this pressured time of year like a pro.

The skills lie in self-belief and taking it all in your stride; being organised, with your time and with your approach; and maximising your body and mind by taking care of yourself and your health:

Believing in yourself and your ability, adopting a calm and collected approach and generally thinking positively can go a long way to stress-free success this semester.

Being organised might sound boring to some. But if it’s time you need; and less stress; being organised will provide this. It’s not just about revising and fitting in all the tasks and ‘to do’s’. It’s equally as important to organise some leisure time, especially at this time of year when the pressure is on.

Looking after yourself by being organised with your health is paramount. Making sure you are eating well, de-stressing and re-energising through exercise; and properly relaxing are all essential to surviving this semester.

Being organised with sleep and energy levels is crucial too.

Sleep

Sleep is essential, it is a crucial tool for getting you through the many physical and mental demands of this semester. It has been described as “nutrition for the brain.”1 If you’re tired it can be more difficult to concentrate and to absorb information. When tired, the brain begins to lag, reactions are slower and concentration doesn’t come easy. Sleep is crucial to cognitive function. Essential brain development occurs when we sleep. Processes such as speech, memory, reaction, intellective and originative thought are all given a new lease of life when we get enough sleep. Lack of sleep essentially dampens brain activity in the brain’s frontal lobe; the part responsible for making decisions and controlling impulses.2

Studies have indicated sleep can specifically affect how our memory functions. In recent years interest has focussed on the role of sleep in memory consolidation. For example, research shows that sleep deprivation affects our ability to learn and recall ‘episodic information’ which means the brain can struggle to digest information consisting of a series of separate parts, events or facts; When we get enough sleep; our ability to retain and recall episodic information improves considerably.3 Studies also show that getting enough sleep the night before can promote our ability to understand, learn and digest new information the following day.4 Essentially, while we sleep the brain is able to recharge just like the body does.

Getting regular sleep over this stressful period can make such a difference to stress levels. Sleep gives our bodies the chance to rest, grow, build, repair and rejuvenate. Sleep helps us to go about our daily lives with enough energy and vitality to achieve what we need to physically. Furthermore, lack of sleep can impair the immune system and interfere with vital processes meaning we’re more likely to get unwell. And as we all know, getting unwell isn’t ideal when studying for important exams and writing the epic final year dissertation.

If you’re finding it hard to nod off, or finding it hard to stay in slumberland throughout the night, there are some simple changes you can make to help you get a good night’s sleep.

Lifestyle tips for sleep

  • Switch off: Exposure to bright artificial light in the late evening can make it hard for our brains to switch off making it tricky to fall asleep. This type of light is usually generated from a TV screen, computer screen, tablet or phone. So switching off gadgets a good couple of hours before we want to fall asleep is a good start. Switching the light off while we are trying to fall asleep will also help. Light disrupts the production of melatonin, the hormone that tells our bodies it’s the right time to sleep. While darkness encourages the production of melatonin, encouraging us to fall asleep. Also switching off from studying a good hour or so before you intend to sleep will really help to relax your mind and set you up for some solid shut-eye.
  • Stop trying so hard: Trying to fall asleep is a bad place to start. Just thinking about falling asleep can stop it from happening. When we fall asleep, this is often the point at which our brains begin to process the day’s events and worries that may be niggling. Trying to think about something non-emotional while diverting thoughts from the act of falling asleep should help you to nod off in no time.5
  • Daily exercise: Getting an adequate amount of exercise can ensure you sleep well.
  • Relax: Try doing something relaxing before bed, such as listening to calming music, taking a gentle stroll, reading a book, having a bath or meditating.
  • In tune: Try listening to your body clock and go to sleep when you’re feeling tired at night.
  • Routine: Creating a regular bed ‘time’ that you stick to can help too. The daily routine of going to bed and waking up at the same time can help set a healthy sleep pattern and promote good sleep.6
  • Avoid caffeine: Don’t consume caffeine late in the day; it’s a definite sleep disruptor. Caffeine is an alkaloid compound which stimulates the central nervous system and is best consumed in the morning so that it has time to pass through our system before bedtime. This means avoiding coffee, tea, caffeinated fizzy drinks and chocolate, for example, in the latter part of the day. Caffeine interacts with the central nervous system by blocking the chemical Adensoine, which is produced naturally to help the body to feel calm and relaxed, which is why caffeine stops us from feeling sleepy.7
  • Avoid alcohol. It disrupts REM sleep; the restorative stage of sleep which can cause you to feel sleepy, lethargic and unable to concentrate properly.
  • Try Green Tea: Instead try Green Tea. Although Green Tea does contain a trace of caffeine it’s known for aiding a good night’s sleep. Green Tea contains theanine, an amino acid which helps us to sleep well.8
  • Eat Right: Eating a healthy, balanced diet at regular times and ensuring we get at least our 5-a day of fruit and vegetables will ensure we stay healthy generally. Avoid eating big meals late in the day and cut out alcohol at night because both can bring on heartburn and sit heavy inside, making it hard to fall asleep. Instead try a salad with kale and spinach which are rich in calcium which helps the brain use tryptophan, an amino acid responsible for causing us to feel drowsy.9 Generally watching what we eat in the evenings can help us to get a better night’s sleep. Sugary, highly processed foods will keep us awake.10 Instead, if you’re peckish, opt for a yoghurt as an evening snack, or a glass of milk. Milk contains tryptophan and is high in calcium; both help promote sleep. Better still, how about a banana to go with your yoghurt and milk? Banana contains vitamin B6 and magnesium, an essential mineral, both of which can help promote better sleep. Bananas are packed with potassium, which helps our muscles to relax. Bananas also contain tryptophan, which is converted by the body into melatonin, which helps us to feel sleepy. On top of this bananas are a carbohydrate which can help make us feel drowsy too. Try cherries, which are also a natural source of melatonin. “Eaten regularly, cherries can even help restore your natural sleep cycle and regulate your body’s circadian rhythms.”11 Lettuce can also help us to get a better night’s sleep because it contains lactucin which has a sedative effect on the nervous system. Like milk, hummus contains L-tryptophan, so can be a good evening snack if we’re feeling hungry.12

Supplements for a sound sleep

5-HTP

5-HTP is an abbreviation for the molecule 5-hydroxytryptophan which is an intermediate for the essential amino acid L-Tryptophan. Tryptophan is essential because we are unable to synthesise it exclusively within the body. 5-HTP is a vital naturally occurring compound in the body and is the most important active ingredient of the Griffonia Simplicifolia plant. Griffonia Simplicifolia is a vine plant that best grows on mountain slopes and termite hills of Central and West Africa. It’s been employed in this part of the world for centuries as a traditional herbal medicine, esteemed for its therapeutic and healing properties for a range of diseases. 5-HTP converts directly into serotonin and melatonin in the human brain. These are neurotransmitters which are believed to help mood, brain activity, appetite, concentration, and regulate sleep patterns. 5-HTP is thought to help aid insomnia; The conversion of 5-HTP into serotonin and melatonin in the brain can help promote a healthy sleep pattern. Serotonin is vital for muscle contraction, blood clotting, mood balance and overall well-being. Most important is Serotonin’s ability to sedate the body for sleep. Serotonin is a precursor to another hormone Melatonin which is required by the body’s Circadian Rhythm (biological clock). Melatonin has been cited as the hormone that helps regulate our wake-sleep cycle. Try coupling this with Green tea tablets, a great source of theanine which can help improve sleep; and these two supplements could help you get some much-needed shut-eye.13


Vitamin B6

Vitamin B6 is a water-soluble vitamin that comes in 3 forms, Pyridoxine, Pyridoxal, and Pyridoxamine. The body has the ability to swap between the 3 forms, dependent on the body’s needs. Its active form is phosphorylated and known as pyridoxal 5’-phosphate (PLP).

The body needs Vitamin B6 to produce melatonin, which helps us to sleep. Salmon and halibut, for example, are high in vitamin B6, so these fish can have a sleepy effect. Vitamin B6 boosts the production of serotonin, which influences mood, appetite, and sleep patterns. Meats, vegetables, nuts, avocados, soybeans, kale and bananas all contain Vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 tablets are a great way to ensure adequate levels of Vitamin B6.

Theanine

Theanine is an amino acid which helps promote good sleep. It’s useful at restoring balance within the body, especially when the body is put under a lot of duress. It’s said to promote relaxation and rejuvenate the body and can have a positive effect on mood and cognitive ability and offers all round protection to the brain.14 Green tea is a great source of theanine!

Energy

Lifestyle tips on Energy

  • Establishing a regular sleeping pattern will help maintain energy levels and ensure you are feeling physically and cognitively bright, fresh, alert and able to cope with the demands put upon you this semester.
  • Exercise and be active. Regular exercise combats feelings of fatigue and boosts energy levels.15
  • Eating a balanced and healthy diet and establishing regular healthy eating patterns will help to keep you going both physically and mentally. Eat the right foods, like slow-release carbohydrates that give sustained energy, such as porridge oats for breakfast. Research shows that students who eat breakfast perform better in exams.16 Eat little and often, aim to have three meals a day as well as a healthy mid morning and mid afternoon snack if you need a boost, such as a piece of fruit or a smoothie.
  • Eat 5 A DAY - Eat a variety of between 5-7 portions of different fruits and vegetables. Vegetables are important sources of many vitamins and nutrients, including potassium, dietary fiber, folate (folic acid), vitamin A, and vitamin C. Fruits provide the body with vitamins and minerals, including antioxidants, such as vitamin A, C, E and selenium, as well as being a source of nucleic acids.
  • Choose whole foods, including whole grains. Include starchy carbohydrate foods like potatoes, bread, rice or pasta. Starchy foods should make up just over one-third of everything we eat, so should form the foundations of a meal.17 Carbohydrates provide the body with energy.
  • Include some dairy or dairy alternatives (such as soya drinks). Milk and dairy foods such as cheese and yoghurt are good sources of protein and contain a range of vitamins, minerals and nutrients, such as calcium, which helps keep bones and teeth healthy.
  • Include foods which are high in essential fatty acids such as nuts, seeds, avocado and oily fish. Eat 2 portions of sustainably sourced fish per week, one of which should be oily; providing essential omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.
  • Include plenty of beans, pulses, fish, eggs, meat and other protein.
  • Increase consumption of beans and pulses; they are a great source of protein. Protein helps you feel fuller for longer. The body needs protein to build and repair tissues and to make enzymes, hormones, and other body chemicals. Protein is an important building block of bones, muscles, cartilage, skin, and blood. Beans and pulses are also a great source of fibre, vitamins and minerals. They are also a good source of nucleic acids, along with fish.
  • Eat less red and processed meat; but some red meat in our diets can be beneficial.
  • Opt for unsaturated oils and spreads and eat in small amounts.
  • Drink plenty of fluids, especially water. Recommended amount is 6-8 cups/glasses per day. Dehydration can cause fatigue, headaches, lessen alertness and concentration.
  • Opt for foods which are low in sugar.
  • Avoid deep fried food and fast food and takeaways.
  • Avoid chemical additives and colourings.
  • Avoid caffeine.18

Caffeine

Caffeine is an alkaloid compound which stimulates the central nervous system. It has a similar chemical structure to the DNA and RNA, adenine and guanine. Caffeine interacts with the central nervous system by blocking the chemical Adenosine, which is produced naturally to help the body to feel calm and relaxed.19 Too much caffeine can cause anxiety, irritability, nervousness, dizziness, headaches, heart palpitations, and lightheadedness. Caffeine can also disrupt sleep and can negatively affect concentration, performance and memory. If you are stressed or anxious, caffeine can increase these feelings and can cause feelings of nervousness and body jitters. Basically "Caffeine exaggerates the stress response" so if feeling stressed this is the last thing you want to do! 20

Too much caffeine can also cause gastrointestinal upset. Green tea really is a great alternative. Not only does it provide energy it can also relieve stress and anxiety and improve brain function.21

Supplements for energy

Ginseng

Native to China and Korea, the Panax Ginseng plant is known locally as an ‘all-healing’ supplement. The root is where the active ingredient Ginsenosides reside. The Asian form of Ginseng is one of the oldest known herbal medicines and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 7000 years. In Chinese traditional medicine, ginseng is refer to as the “root of heaven”, as it’s believed to possess the ability to cure every ailment. Ginseng is thought to strengthen the immune system, helping us to avoid cold and flu viruses which can weaken our immune system. Ginseng is also thought to improve the body’s ability to deal with stress, allowing the body to ‘get better’. Research has shown ginseng may also contain chemicals that react against some bacteria and viruses, helping the body to kill off such invasions and recover faster. Ginseng is a great supplement to take during the busy exam period as it’s believed to provide an energy boost, lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels, reduce stress and promote relaxation.22

Cordyceps

Cordyceps Sinensis is a fungus/mushroom. It is found in the Himalayan Mountains of China and is incredibly rare. It is best grown at high altitudes, but due to recent advances in science and botanicals it can now be harvested from its natural source and cultivated elsewhere in other countries. It's most popular in Tibetan and Chinese Medicine, where it has been used for over 2000 years to treat a multitude of ailments. It's healing properties has travelled into the western culture where it's now used in supplements.

Traditionally, it was used for many health problems, but modern scientific research has found its health benefits to immune function. It is linked with the ability to scavenge free radicals, and promote the immune system, thus advancing general health. In addition, Cordyceps Sinensis is classified as an adaptogen, which helps the body in times of high stress, by increasing energy production in the cells and tissues.23

Maca

Maca is a salubrious root extract from the plant, Lepidium Meyenii. It’s a relative of the radish, belonging to the mustard family, and part of the wider cruciferous family (which includes broccoli and cabbage). It’s a rich source of phytonutrients and due to its unique health giving properties is considered a ‘superfood’. Maca is known as an adaptogen, a special kind of plant that has unique medicinal and healing properties, reputed to have balanced, restorative and protective influences within the body. Maca has been used for many thousands of years, as far back as the Inca Empire, where they used the root of the Maca plant for both its nutrition and health properties. In the Inca era, it was given to warriors before a battle as they believed it would increase strength and stamina and help them to be successful in war and live to fight another day. Maca could help at this stressful and demanding time in the following ways:

  • Fight fatigue. Boosts energy levels
  • Improve mood
  • Reduce stress
  • Reduce anxiety
  • Considered a natural aphrodisiac - boosting testosterone levels and libido in men45
  • Improve mental clarity. Cognitive function. Memory.24

The Maca plant and its root extract is a potent natural energy booster and recommended, in particular, when you require enhanced physical and mental performance so ideal for the exam period.25

Maca Powder

The benefit of this product in powder form is its versatility; it’s easy to use and can be added to just about anything, including smoothies, shakes and juice drinks. We recommend adding it to a pre-workout shake for a natural boost of energy, or during study, periods try adding it to a nutritious fruit smoothie to keep energy levels naturally high. Raw powdered Maca can also be included in raw food diet. We provide Maca in a variety of weights from 25-1000g.26

In addition to the many specific health claims, Maca’s unique nutritional value makes it a great supplement to boost the immune system and maintain all round general health of both body and mind. Maca is a particularly good supplement for those of us suffering from malnutrition and not getting enough of the essential vitamins, minerals and amino acids from the diet that the body requires to function properly. An ideal supplement to take during this busy, pressurised time when you need to perform your best; keep energy levels, and the brain sharp and focused.

B Vitamins

The B vitamins are B1 (thiamine) B2 (riboflavin) B3 (niacin) B5 (pantothenic acid) B6
B7 (biotin) B12 and Folic acid. The Vitamin B complex is brilliant for giving you a boost as it supports the promotion of normal energy metabolism leading to a reduction in fatigue (Vitamins B1, B2, B6, B12) Basically the B vitamins help your body to get or make energy from food. They also have an important role to play in the formation of red blood cells. Natural sources of the B vitamins include protein rich foods like fish, poultry, meat, eggs, and dairy. Leafy green vegetables, beans, and peas are also a great source. Cereals and breads are often fortified with B vitamins.27

Stress

Examinations; deadlines; dissertations; pressure of combining paid work and study; difficulty in organising work; time management; leaving assignments to the last minute; noise disrupting study; difficulties with personal relationships; balancing the demands of a family with studying; financial worries; parents or problems at home; as well as a whole host of other ‘life’ issues can all add to the stress of this semester.

Feeling stressed about essay deadlines; fitting in exam revision; sitting exams; or writing the mother of all dissertations, is natural. Essentially you’re feeling worried because you care and you want you want to do well. This is a very good thing. It’s not the type of thing they can teach you at uni either. This all comes from within. This burning passion; this desire to do your best and be the best you can be; this gumption! It’s what drives you to carry on when it all feels like too much. It’s what gets you through that late night session at the library when it seems like everyone else is out having fun; it’s what drags you out of bed to attend that far too early lecture; it’s what urges you to rewrite that conclusion because it’s not quite right yet; it’s what rallies you on to keep on revising. And it’s what will get you through this crucial semester. The key is to harness these feelings of nervousness and worry and to channel them into taking action; while at the same time making life as easy and stress free as possible.

Stress is the way the body responds physically and mentally to extra demands and pressure. Not all stress is bad. A little stress can help us to achieve and can stimulate the brain. When we feel stressed adrenaline, noradrenaline and glucose are produced, providing an energy boost and an alertness and focus. Too much stress, however, can cause us to feel anxious and panicked. Too much stress can cause cognitive function to slow down, making it hard to focus. It’s difficult to be decisive and to think logically when feeling under a lot of stress.

Learning how to manage your own stress levels and recognising how to make lifestyle changes to reduce stress is key.

Lifestyle tips to keep you de-stressed

  • Organising time is essential to eliminating stress. Dedicate specific time to study, establish a pattern of study, Set yourself daily/weekly goals.
  • Take breaks. Organise time so you can have some proper guilt-free time off. 
  • Rest and relaxation are vital. We live in a fast-paced and busy world and often the onus is on ‘action’, particularly this semester! It’s so important to ensure we allow ourselves to rest and relax and de-stress. It’s perfectly acceptable and more than this it's essential to do absolutely nothing in order to relax and recharge physically and mentally. 
  • Ensuring we get enough sleep and sticking to regular sleeping patterns can make such a big difference to how we feel physically (energy wise) as well as how we feel emotionally and mentally.
  • Exercise is a great stress-buster and a regular exercise regime can significantly help bring about feelings of vitality, health, well-being, increased energy levels, a sense of calm, a sense of well-being. Sport and physical activity helps you to relax physically and also releases endorphins in the body which produce a real feeling of well-being. 
  • Look after yourself. Be good to you. Eat well. Food can affect how you feel and think, it can influence alertness and the ability to concentrate. Keep well hydrated; drink lots of water. Treat yourself to something that will make you feel good; like a candle-lit bubble bath or that new pair of shoes. Try relaxation techniques, such as breathing exercises, yoga or meditation. Be kind to yourself; you are trying your best.

Supplements to keep you free from stress

Green tea

Not only is Green tea regarded as a great stress-relief, it’s known to be effective at supporting memory; improving cognitive function; improving mental alertness and boosting energy; so should be an all-round favourite for students at this time of year.28

Omega 3

Omega 3, 6 and 9 fatty acids are essential fatty acids that come under the banner of of polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fatty acids. They are a bioactive compound that can be found in both animals and plants.

Research has shown Omega-3 fish oils to have positive effects on general brain health and cognitive ability and have been shown to help reduce feelings of anxiety and stress.29

The most abundant source of the essential fatty acid omega 3 is oily, fat-rich fish, such as sardines, kippers, crab and swordfish. Other plant based foods such as avocado, sunflower oil, flax, linseed oil and walnuts also contain omega 3 fatty acids. Green leafy vegetables are a great source of these EFA’s.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D is one of the fat soluble vitamins. The benefit of fat soluble vitamins is that they can be consumed in smaller quantities than the water soluble vitamins because they have greater long term storage capacity in the body. There are a few forms of Vitamin D, including Ergocalciferol (D2) and Cholecalciferol (D3). There is much debate about which is the most potent and important form to humans. Recently, data has shown that D3-Cholecalciferol is the most beneficial and has the highest bio-efficacy in the body.Vitamin D3, in this form can be derived from the sun, specifically the UVB rays which causes a conversion of 7-dehydrocholesterol in the skin. It is then stored in the liver of many animals, hence, why liver specifically cod liver oil and oily fish are great source of Vitamin D3 . Vitamin D can be made inside the body as well as consumed, however in countries such as the UK the sun cannot provide this level of sunshine to consistently produce Vitamin D within the body. Dietary sources of Vitamin D include, cod liver oils, sardines, salmon, eggs and sunflower seeds.30

Vitamin D helps to regulate mood and a deficiency in this essential vitamin could have a negative effect on stress and anxiety levels.

5-HTP

5-HTP could help combat feelings of anxiety and stress because it converts directly into serotonin and melatonin in the human brain. These are neurotransmitters which are believed to help mood, brain activity, appetite, concentration, and regulate sleep patterns.

Lemon Balm

Lemon balm is a perennial herb belonging to the mint family. It’s believed to provide a calming effect and can help ease anxiety and restlessness. 31 Lemon balm is also linked to improvements in mood and/or cognitive performance.32

Vitamin B complex

Essentially B Vitamins are crucial nutrients needed by the body for growth, development, and a range of other important functions. The Vitamin B complex supports the promotion of normal nervous system function leading to overall improvement of psychological function (Vitamins 1,B2,B3,B6,B8,B9,B12) which can help improve mood and feelings of anxiety and stress. B-complex vitamins have been specifically linked to reducing stress. They are essential because they provide some of the basic structures required for the synthesisation of stress-relieving neurotransmitters, such as serotonin. Vitamin B is often referred to as the “anti-stress vitamin” because of its ability to fight the effects of stress.33

B vitamins also promote blood flow to active tissues (Vitamin B3) and can prevent oxidative stress, caused by free radicals. It addition, the Vitamin B complex offers support to and maintenance of the immune system; all beneficial capabilities when under extreme stress and studying hard.34


Concentration and Memory

Lifestyle tips for improving memory and concentration

  • Chunking information. This is a strategy that can help improve your ability to remember and revise. Breaking down difficult or lengthy text/information into smaller, more manageable sections can make it easier to digest, organise and retain information.
  • Take regular breaks when studying. Your brain needs a break and revision will be more effective if you take short regular breaks.
  • Get some fresh air. This will help you to think more clearly and to concentrate.
  • Eat well and regularly. Don’t skip meals. Food can affect how you feel and think, it can influence alertness and the ability to concentrate.
  • Avoid alcohol. Alcohol can have an amnesic effect, ie you forget things!

Supplements for memory and concentration

Ginkgo Biloba

Ginkgo has been shown to improve blood flow in the brain, so could be a great supplement to take to improve cognitive function. Some studies have found a link between improvements in mood, alertness, and mental ability in healthy people who take ginkgo.35 The active compounds of the of the Biloba seeds are called Ginkgolides and Bilobalides. These compounds provide a beneficial list of therapeutic abilities, namely their effects on cognitive function. It claims to help maintain mental well being and memory function, whilst protecting the person from cognitive decline. This benefit is brought about by contributing to normal circulation to the brain, and thus increasing brain performance and reactivity.36

Ginseng

Ginseng is believed to lead to better brain function, having a positive effect on memory, concentration and thinking. Research has shown strong evidence that consuming ginseng can significantly enhance mental performance and memory. In a study where ginseng was consumed daily for 12 weeks, results undeniably showed ginseng improved brain function and performance in those with Alzheimer’s disease.37

Omega 3

Research has shown Omega-3 fish oils to have positive effects on general brain health and cognitive ability, including memory and concentration.38

Sage

Sage is bursting at the seams with antioxidants and coveted for its carotenoid properties.

Research has shown that it has strong links to improving memory. In a study cited in the journal, Pharmacology, Biochemistry and Behaviour, a group of young, healthy adults who had taken sage oil capsules achieved significantly higher results in a word recall test compared to the placebo group.39

Sage can also help protect the body from free-radical damage and the presence of carotenoids is thought to help boost immunity and reduce the risk of bacteria in food. Sage is also responsible for the health of the digestive system, stimulating normal stomach and intestinal tract function. Finally, sage has antiseptic and anti-oxidising properties which help to contribute to the body’s natural defenses.40

Inositol

Inositol is a water soluble vitamin-like structure commonly called vitamin B8, yet it is not strictly a B vitamin. Its structure is classified as the alcohol form of cyclohexane. The active part of this is known as Myo-Inositol.

Inositol can be found naturally in food sources, the most rich of these are the cantaloupe melon and oranges. However, Inositol is also found in smaller quantities in foods such as lecithin oil, liver, brown rice, cereals, soy flour and green leafy vegetables.

Inositol supports brain cell health, hence why it’s used to support memory and concentration and generally good for overall cognitive function. “Because all major neurotransmitters require inositol in order to relay messages, it’s essential to communication between brain cells and thus has a significant impact on mood and cognition.”41

Green Tea

Green tea has promising advances in the field of neurological health and is thought to aid concentration and memory. One study found that Green Tea consumption is linked with a 54% decrease in cognitive decline.42

So what makes Green tea so good? It's packed with polyphenols, active compounds that come under the umbrella of catechins, cited in studies as the important part of the plant, in terms of supporting our health and well-being. Catechins are so super because they are a flavonoid and antioxidant, known to combat disease. There are six main polyphenol compounds that pack a punch in Green tea, the most effective is Epigallocatechin gallate, referred to as EGCG; research indicates it's at the heart of the health benefits that Green tea can provide.43 Students should be choosing Green tea for a host of reasons, such as to ease headaches; help control blood sugar; boost energy levels; aid mental alertness, memory and cognitive function and to ease stress and bring about feelings of general well-being.44

Take charge

You’d have to be a superhero or zen master to get through this semester completely unscathed by even just the tiniest amount of stress. You’ve got an enormous amount on your plate but believe in yourself and remind yourself ‘you got it covered’. And if you don’t feel convinced of this, try not to panic. Take some deep breaths. Then take some small steps to reset the balance so you feel more settled and more on top of things. By taking stress into your own hands and taking control of your time, health and general well-being it is possible to survive this semester with some sort of serenity and not arrive at the summer holidays resembling a crumpled, tired wreck. Giving your body and brain a helping hand by eating well, sleeping well and taking time out to relax is essential. Enhancing a healthy diet with the right combination of supplements can ensure you’re not deficient in any of the essential nutrients your body and brain needs to perform at its best. Some supplements can be a real help at this time of year, offering support to energy levels, cognitive function and the immune system. Last piece of advice; try to enjoy this crazy time. One day you’ll probably look back and strangely miss it somehow. After all, these are some of the best days of your life and will stay with you forever. Dig deep for some self-belief. If you believe you can do this; chances are you can.

 

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3 A sleep to remember: The effects of sleep on memory: http://journals.ed.ac.uk/resmedica/article/viewFile/179/793

20 James D. Lane, PhD, Professor of Medical Psychology, Duke University Medical Center, Durham, N.C.Retrieved from:http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/pros-and-cons-caffeine-craze#1

42 Kuriyama S, Hozawa A, Ohmori K, Shimazu T, Matsui T, Ebihara S, Awata S, Nagatomi R, Arai H, Tsuji I. Green tea consumption and cognitive function: a cross-sectional study from the Tsurugaya Project 1. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Feb;83(2):355-61.

44 The Journal of Neuroscience. 2005. Silver Child Development Center, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine, University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida

45 Maca Root Benefits for Men

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