A Student Survival Guide For Back To School Stress

It’s been a few years since my university days and without hesitation I can say : I miss it!

I loved learning and being surrounded by like-minded thinkers. I loved digging into text books and the sounds of laptop keys furiously clicking through lectures. I loved the in-betweens of classes, sneaking off into the trails, the late nights working away with friends.

And then I happened upon my friend, Denis, here in the streets of Montreal and I too remembered: the once considered mandatory exam coffees (I don’t even like coffee!), the all nighters, the deadlines, the hunched shoulders, the sugar cravings… oh yes! I remember. And while it took me a few years, by my final year I felt I had just about learned the ways of university and the most useful and practical subject I have studied: nutrition.

Denis.jpg

Perhaps you are off to school, or simply feeling the stress of the September season. In either case, remember that the psychological key to reducing stress is not in the situation itself, but in your mindset towards it. And as a clean body equates to a clean and clear mind, these are my holistic tips (with the help of our good friend Denis) for a September that’s stress-free!

Refine Your Take On Refined Foods

  • You’re under enough stress as it is, you don’t want food to be another!
  • Refined foods are stressors to the body as they create unsteady blood sugar levels causing you to crash on the school couch, and create a rapid spike in cortisol – our stress hormone! As the icing on the cake, a junk food diet has been shown to affect your brain’s synapses, thereby impairing learning and memory.
  • Instead? Ditch the fried french fries spewed over the bench and burger bag hidden behind Denis’ shoe and opt for fast, fresh and wholesome foods instead!
  • Bananas, for example, are conveniently prepackaged, naturally sweet, and packed with stress busting nutrients such as calming magnesium, energizing vitamin B6, and components that increase the production of serotonin in your brain to promote optimal stress relief.

Kick The Coffee

  • As my professor once said “coffee is stress in a cup!”
  • But as a staple of many students’ daily routines, caffeine is often relied on to boost energy and reduce stress. The issue? This boost of energy is only short lived and unsustainable, and the coffee can actually trigger the body’s stress response.
  • Instead? Opt for green tea or matcha (concentrated green tea powder) with the amino acid L-theanine that helps to reduce stress, boost energy and enhance productivity, while promoting a sense of relaxation.
  • NOTE: In either case, caffeine should be used as a boost when needed but not as a crutch. For the everyday, opt for energizing B vitamins (a supplement that supports the adrenals, your body’s “stress glands”), and ginkgo biloba which not only works as an adaptogen to help you cope with stress, but is well known for boosting blood flow to the brain to enhance learning and memory – all without the caffeine jitters!

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Move To Manage Stress

  • While excessive sitting, on city benches or otherwise, has been proclaimed “the new smoking”, exercise has long been known for its stress busting benefits. Movement will instantly refresh and energize you while oxygenating the brain and boosting your feel-good neurotransmitters.
  • While movement is a necessity in health, vigorous exercise is a stress to the physical body, so engage predominately in light to moderate movements on a daily basis. Run the stairs at your breaks, take a hike through campus trails, and participate in group activities in between lectures such as yoga (my favourite way to de-stress on a long day!).

A+ For Denis

  • What Denis did get right? He’s taken it outside! In fact, I have a feeling he spends an awful lot of time here.
  • Fresh air and nature spaces have both been shown to dramatically reduce stress. With the last of our beautiful summer weather and fall on the horizon, it is the perfect time to soak up the sun. Bonus points for removing your shoes to harness the stress relieving benefits of earthing!
  • Can’t get outside? Bring the outdoors in with green plants and open windows.

Study these tips and you are well on your way to a healthy, happy, stress free semester!

From A(+) to Zen,

Suzanne Eden

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