Preventing brain drain: Back-to-school fatigue

For some, going back to school is a great thing. New and old friends, a new out­fit or two, learn­ing new things and grow­ing as a per­son. For oth­ers, school can be scary. Especially if you are start­ing a new school, are mak­ing new friends, or start­ing sub­jects where the work load is intense and you may not be sure how to juggle everything. How can you make things easi­er for your­self?

Easing into the school transition

Dress for comfort

Sometimes there is pres­sure to wear what every­one else thinks is great, but it doesn’t work for you. Be prac­tic­al. If one of your classrooms is −25° in July, bring a sweat­er put on and stay warm so you can think. Wearing a shoulder bag rather than a back­pack as an example can look good, but if you have to talk 2 miles to classes then you are going to end up with head­aches, muscle pain, and end up more cranky than it is worth! Support your body.

Eat the right kinds of foods, and frequently

Did you know that the brain’s require­ment for gluc­ose is essen­tial to your suc­cess in learn­ing and memory? Neurons or brain cells do not store gluc­ose, which is the primary energy source for their func­tion­ing. Student snack­ing can actu­ally be to your bene­fit, espe­cially when those foods have some good com­plex car­bo­hydrates (green veg­gies, fibrous crack­ers with flax and chia) where gluc­ose is most eas­ily lib­er­ated. Lower gly­cem­ic index foods like beans, len­tils, oat­meal, wheat and spelt actu­ally enhance memory and focus one hour after con­sump­tion. What not to do is to turn to chocol­ate or sug­ary snacks, as they are high in the gly­cem­ic index and are con­sumed by neur­ons as quickly as they are made avail­able. This leaves you sus­cept­ible to hypogly­cemia, and causes dizzi­ness, light­headed­ness and dif­fi­culty con­cen­trat­ing.

Get enough sleep

Demands to fin­ish dead­lines requires many stu­dents to stay up far later than is bene­fi­cial. For most, 7 – 8 hours of sleep is really import­ant to be able to func­tion and retain inform­a­tion dur­ing the day, and sleep depriva­tion pre­vents you from hav­ing good focus and con­cen­tra­tion. In addi­tion, your require­ments from food for brain gluc­ose will increase. It is import­ant to turn off the com­puter close to bed­time so your mind is calmer, and try chamo­mile or lem­on balm tea to get that busy brain to calm itself.

Exercise and stretch frequently

Sitting in a chair in a classroom or hunched over at a com­puter is really hard on your body. The nat­ur­al curve of your upper spine (or cer­vical spine) called lor­dos­is can reverse over time when your head and neck are put­ting too much pres­sure on muscles and ten­dons to keep your bones from allow­ing your head to fall for­ward. In addi­tion to get­ting up and walk­ing around every hour to move your body, add the fol­low­ing three simple stretches:

  1. Lateral flex­ion of the head -Sit up in a chair, with your arms by your sides. Slowly lower your right ear to your right shoulder as far as it can go, gently hold­ing that pos­i­tion for 30 seconds, and bring back to centre. Repeat on the left side.
  2. Chin to chest and head to back — In the same seated pos­i­tion slowly lower your chin to your chest, and hold for 20 seconds. Move your head back to centre and then slowly lower your head back­wards to your back for sev­er­al seconds (only as far as com­fort­able)
  3. Pectoralis stretch -Standing up, clasp your hands behind your back with straight arms, and slowly lift your arms away from your body, stretch­ing your arms behind you. You will notice this stretch in the front of your chest.

Make new friends and nurture the friendships you have

Friends are an import­ant way to get through school. It’s great to have a net­work of people to lean on and people to com­mis­er­ate about stress, chat about assign­ments, joke around with to keep one anoth­er awake and alert. Perhaps you are a shy per­son, or feel like you might work bet­ter on your own? It’s import­ant to real­ize what works for you. If you have trouble meet­ing people or mak­ing new friends, try talk­ing about some­thing you might have in com­mon. There are lots of social events where your interests will align you with people who think like you and enjoy the same activ­it­ies. Whether you have one friend or 20 friends, make an attempt to get to know people who make you feel good about your­self.

Ask for help

If you are hav­ing trouble with a sub­ject, are feel­ing stressed and over­whelmed, or you are feel­ing isol­ated in your friend groups, talk to someone. Whether that is a par­ent, a sib­ling, friend, or pro­fes­sion­al remem­ber you are not alone and there are always solu­tions to a prob­lem. Mulling it over in your head can be a scary place, and two heads can be bet­ter than one.

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