At the best of times preparing for matric exams is one of the most stressful life experiences.
So, how are you going to handle yourself in the year of a global pandemic and the roller-coaster ride response?
2020 has been nothing short of wild, and the current matric cohort is going to need smart support and ideas to keep a cool head as they tackle their studies and journey through this final stage of school life.
"The good news is that no matter the chaos and uncertainty around you, you can still take charge of yourself," says Counselling Psychologist, Lauren Martin.
"There is no doubt that healthy, emotional well-being is important for positive functioning in life, including academic success. However, healthy, emotional well-being does not mean we live a life free of experiencing discomforts or unpleasant emotions."
"Rather, we learn that academic success can be achieved while experiencing challenging states and circumstances. So, yes the world has flipped upside down."
"But you can still take control of your future, and matrics can start right now to prepare themselves emotionally, physically and mentally to get through their exams," she says.
Martin is on the panel at an upcoming SACAP (South African College of Applied Psychology) webinar called 'study hacks to get through matric exams'.
The trick is not to look for a silver bullet. Rather, the experts recommend a mixed bag of study hacks including movement as matric medicine, study strategies to achieve success, healthy eating for healthy results and emotional well-being as a tool to boost performance.
Esmarie Cilliers, a Registered Counsellor in private practice with a special interest in Developmental Psychology and Personal Growth points out studying for success is not a question of luck or talent alone.
"Researchers agree that students who have a strategy or a plan for how they are going to study, achieve the best outcomes," she says. "Students who follow a plan and scientific study methods learn more easily, retain information for longer periods, and save themselves hours of study time which enables them to have more balance in their lives."
Dr Diana De Sousa, SACAP’s Head of Teaching and Learning emphasizes that the psychological adaptions we have all had to make in response to Covid-19 provide a phenomenal life lesson in resilience.
"Matrics can embrace their growing independence and choose to view this incredibly challenging time as an opportunity to improve self-discipline, time management and study skills," she says.
"It is our inner attributes that help us to harness the motivation, will power, creativity and coping skills that will unlock the 2020 matric cohorts’ potential and empower them to succeed."
Of course, mental toughness and emotional resilience do not stand on their own. We’re much more likely to find the courage and spirit we need if we are also caring for ourselves physically.
Sufficient sleep, supportive nutrition and being physically active every day too often fall by the wayside when study pressures mount.
How we eat directly affects our energy levels and concentration says Nathalie Mat, a clinical dietitian with a special interest in child and adolescent nutrition.
"Eating balanced meals and snacks with a variety of foods results in good blood sugar control. When our blood sugar control is smooth as silk, meaning no sugar highs followed by lows, we're able to keep laser-like focus for longer."
Quick fixes like coffee and energy drinks, she says, may promise a mental boost but are not ideal sources of nutrition and do not fuel our brains.
High caffeine intake can affect sleep which further decreases concentration and learning. What we eat and drink impacts our ability to think clearly and concentrate for long periods. Fueling your brain well will help you excel!"
One of the easiest traps to fall into over an extended study period is sitting still for hours on end. While, some may think long hours at a desk is evidence of discipline and virtue, it is counter-productive to learning.
Biokineticist, Joshua Marc De Hahn explains our blood carries the nutrients, hormones and oxygen that supply our brain and body.
"With slow circulation and low volumes flowing throughout the body while we sit for extended periods, our brain and body do not function optimally."
"Physical activity increases our heart rate, the volume of blood pumped around the body and the amount of oxygen we consume, this creates an environment where more blood is flowing to the brain, which in turn means more oxygen and more nutrients reach the brain," he says.
"This results in a brain and body that can function at a much more optimal level.”
To find out more about how movement is matric medicine and how easy it can be to get physically, mentally and emotionally in shape for the exams, matrics can tune into SACAP’s free webinar 'Study hacks to get through matric exams' on Saturday, 19 September at 10:00. Find out more here.
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