Exam Series #2: Beat Exam Stress – Healthy Body, Healthy Mind

Exam time can be stressful! Maybe more so for Mom than the kids! A healthy body and a healthy mind go a long way in equipping us to cope with stress. Here are 7 ways to help your child maintain a healthy body and mind during exam time.

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1) Get enough sleep

Ever pull those all-nighters while you were studying? Yip, I’m sure we all did. And then you felt it all the way through the next week! The amount and quality of sleep we get has a huge impact on whether or not we have a healthy body and mind. 

Sleep is crucial for cognitive functioning

Sleep is super important for cognitive functioning. When we’re well rested, we are more likely to be more efficient, creative, effective in solving problems, more alert and able to think through things more clearly. And besides cognition, emotionally and socially, we’re much nicer people when we’ve had enough sleep!

If your child wants to remember what they’ve studied. If they want to be able to have the ability to concentrate and think clearly during the exam, extracting info from their memory and applying it in their exam answers, they’re going to have to get enough sleep! 

Top Tips for helping your child get enough sleep

  • Don’t let them get to bed too late so they can cram in that last section. 
  • Set a bedtime for during exams and stick to it.
  • Help them get organised so they can get through all of their work so there’s no need for cramming.

2) Eat a healthy diet 

The food we put into our bodies can have such a big impact on our energy levels, concentration and ability to focus – all of which are crucial during exam time.  

Food is fuel. 

When you choose what “fuel” you put in, you want to choose foods that will help your child feel full for longer and will provide a sustained release of energy over time. Foods that are classified as “Low GI” fit into these categories. Check out Gabi Steenkamp’s site for some excellent recipe books, tips and info about how to eat for sustained energy. I heard her speak at a conference a while back and I loved that her work is well-researched and very practical for moms like you and me! 

Top Tips for helping your child eat healthily

  • Choose low GI snacks that are healthy but fun for kids, for example, a small packet of muesli, nuts and dried fruit instead of a packet of chips. 
  • Ditch the sugar. Find creative ways to decrease the amount of sugar your child takes in through the day. Here are some examples: water down their fruit juices and sodas, add soda water to fruit juice, switch to a sweetener for tea, offer other things as treats or rewards rather than sweets or chocolates (eg, some cool stationery they could use, an item of clothing, extra time doing something they enjoy).
  • Make sure your child eats something decent for breakfast. If they won’t eat a meal, or time is tight, make them a yummy shake. 
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3) Drink enough water   

Our bodies are made of 60% water. All of its functioning, the absorption of nutrients, the excretion of waste all depends on the fluid in our bodies.  Your child needs to stay hydrated to function optimally during exam time. 

Staying hydrated is vital to an optimally functioning brain and body!

It is generally accepted that children need between 1 – 2 litres of water a day. A bigger child will need more than a smaller child and a more active child will need more than a less active child. When the weather is hot or dry, we lose more water through perspiration, so intake must be increased to compensate for what is lost. 

Top Tips for helping your child drink enough water

  • Plain water can be boring – cut up some fruit and add it to the bottle – my personal favourite is strawberries and fresh mint leaves (YUM!), but lemons, oranges, and other berries are awesome too!
  • Let your child choose a super cute water bottle, maybe even one with an inspiring quote,  to take to school and hand keep next to his/her desk throughout the day. 
  • Help them set water drinking goals (This one works so well for me!) – eg. Drink a bottle of water by 1st break, after school, 4pm, bed time. 

4) Exercise

Staying active while preparing for exams will greatly enhance your child’s ability to cope with the workload and stress.

Children need to move!

Exercise is so important for developing a healthy body and mind: 

  • Builds muscle tone and core strength which impacts posture, balance, shoulder stability and even pencil grip and concentration!
  • Fosters discipline, teamwork and problem solving skills.
  • Increases the child’s awareness of their body.
  • Releases endorphins and other “brain chemicals” in the body which improves a child’s mood

If your child isn’t into school sports, that’s ok! Help them find something they can enjoy! Exercise should be fun (maybe if we grew up loving exercise, we’d do more of it too!). Here are some examples of non-school sports: pilates (my absolute favourite type of exercise!), running or walking with a family member, dancing, riding their bike, hiking, horse-riding, joining a gym. There are so many options!

Top Tips for helping your child get some exercise

  • Setting an example is the best type of inspiration and motivation
  • Find a physical activity they will enjoy.
  • Incorporate physical activity into their study breaks. They study break shouldnt be sitting in  front of the TV for 10min before returning to the study space. Get up, do some stretches, jumping jacks, squats, run around the garden or complex etc, to get that blood pumping!


Click this link below to download this list of simple exercises your child can do at home, during their study breaks!

Study break, Workout, Exercise, Kids, jumping jacks, squats, dancing dog, stretching, strength training, cardio

5) Environment conducive to effective studying

Where does your child study? Do they actually have a designated space for homework or studying? Is that space clean and organised? How does it feel to be in that space?

The Effect of Environment

Whether your child is studying at a desk in their room or at the table in the kitchen, the space they’re in will impact how effectively they will study. 

The best environment for a healthy mind while studying is:

  • Clean – If it’s dirty and messy, it’s not healthy and not conducive for studying.
  • Organised – A messy, disorganised desk or room doesn’t inspire a clear, organised mind.
  • Few distractions – Whether it’s the little siblings or the TV or that funny smell, if your child is distracted while studying they will not take in and process information effectively.
  • Feels safe, calm and stress-free – If a child feels unsafe, anxious and fearful, their body and mind is in fight-or-flight mode. That means survival is the priority, not studying!

Top Tips for creating an environment conducive to studying

  • Designate an area for studying, with a table and chair. Make sure it’s clean and tidy and has all the resources your child might need to study their work.
  • Eliminate distractions. Everyone needs to respect that study time is quiet time. The little siblings should go play somewhere else, the TV should be off, the traffic and talking should be limited. Put aside their devices for that time or, if they do use them for studying, they need to ensure the game and social media apps stay off!
  • Eliminate stress factors during study time. Create a space at home where your child finds sanctuary – safety, encouragement, support, peace.

 6) Get Organised

When our space and work are organised our minds can be more organised. It’s easier to work through things consistently, to take in and process information more effectively and your child will feel more in control and less overwhelmed as they study for exams. 

Organised space, organised mind

Make sure your child has everything they need in their study space. Here’s a mini checklist:

  • Study material – textbooks, notes, work books, practice tests, etc
  • Paper – lined, plain, colored or a study-book for each subject
  • Stationery – pens, pencils, markers
  • Other equipment or tools, eg calculator

Organize the content they must study. Use this study to do list to divide up all of the work in all of the subjects so that your child has an organized plan of what to work through. Then decide how you’re going to get through it all. Remember to set realistic goals with your child so you can get through all the work and not become overwhelmed. 

Top Tips for getting your child’s space and work organised

  • Study notes: Use colour when writing study notes. Three different colours: main headings, subheadings and content. Writing study notes/ putting the content into a mindmap or list format helps your child to process the info and start committing it to memory (and for that reason they actually need to be the ones to make those notes). 
  • Keep all of the study notes for each subject in a folder in a study file or in a specific study book for that subject. 
  • Keep all of your study tools and materials in a box or bag that can be brought out for study time and then packed away neatly when the study session is over.
Study to do list, checklist, organised, exams, maths, english, subjects

Get your FREE Study To-Do-List Template right here!

7) Stay Positive

Part of cultivating a healthy body and mind is building a positive mindset. One has to be realistic but positive. We want our children to have a healthy way of thinking about themselves, their strengths and their weaknesses. 

A positive mindset will enhance your child’s ability to cope with challenges.

What do your children believe about themselves? What do they believe about their strengths and what they’re good at? How about their beliefs about their weaknesses?

Ever heard these? I have. All. The. Time!

  • I can’t do Maths.
  • I’ll never get that right.
  • My parents said they were never good at Maths so I won’t be – it’s genetic.
  • Urgh I’m so dumb I just can’t get it!
  • I hate that subject.. 
  • It’s too hard!

Top Tips for helping your child stay positive during exams 

  • The way they talk to themselves is a reflection of how we talk to them, and how we talk to ourselves! What are they hearing about themselves and their abilities from you? What do they hear you say about yourself?
  • Remind your child what is truth and what is lies. 
  • Whenever you hear negative self talk – correct it by offering a more positive perspective
  • Eg: “I can’t do this, I’m so dumb!” Encourage them with: “You’re not dumb. You’re just finding this section tough. Let’s try again and give it your best shot

Let’s do it!

Here are those 7 ways again to help your child have a healthy body and healthy mind during exam time:

  1. Get enough sleep
  2. Eat a healthy diet
  3. Stay hydrated
  4. Exercise
  5. An environment conducive to effective studying
  6. Get organised
  7. Stay positive

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