Exam Stress

Exam Stress

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Often, we take our precious ability to remember and concentrate for granted. It’s only when memory fails us, or we struggle to stay focused, that we realise how important these essential functions are for performing daily tasks and leading fulfilling, productive lives. From experiencing sudden ‘blankness’ when sitting down to write an exam paper, to forgetting where you placed your keys or to fetch your kids from school, people of all ages and at all stages of life may have a little trouble with memory and concentration. As you age, it’s natural to have moments in which you are forgetful. But don’t sit back and accept this as an inevitable decline over which you have no power. Now is the time to act. Some simple lifestyle changes can improve your memory while simultaneously providing other health benefits. These positive changes benefit people at any age.1
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These simple actions help protect your brain:
  • Avoid foods with added sugar.
  • Avoid over-processed foods.
  • Stop smoking. Smokers may experience more rapid cognitive decline than non-smokers.
  • Drink less alcohol, or skip it altogether. Long-term alcohol use shrinks the size of neurons (brain cells).
  • Avoid excessive sedentary time in front of a screen – whether that’s your computer or cell phone, or watching television.1
This list shows what you should avoid, but there are also positive actions you can take to boost your memory. Develop these good lifestyle habits:
  • Choose foods that help improve and support memory: flavonoids in fresh fruits and vegetables may protect cognition.7
  • Water your brain! Water makes up 75% of your brain mass and if you’re dehydrated this can negatively impact cognition.
  • Get enough sleep. (At least seven hours and as much as nine.) When you’re well rested, you’re better able to concentrate, which leads to improved overall memory function.
  • Exercise regularly. Exercise boosts your brain health, memory and ability to think by allowing better bloodflow to the brain.
  • Reduce stress. High levels of stress hormones could hamper concentration and memory formation because they have an inflammatory effect on brain cells. One way to reduce stress is through meditation.
  • Be socially active. Social connection has been shown to increase the brain’s grey matter. When you socialise, it may seem as if you’re just chatting and laughing, but all the while your brain is working hard. Socialising stimulates memory and attention, and in so doing it strengthens neural networks.
  • Puzzles and games are great for challenging important areas of the brain that deal with language, logic, attention, problem-solving and reasoning. The more you keep your brain active and engaged, the better.1,2,6,8,9,11
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Eating certain foods can boost your memory and support your brain. Leafy green vegetables such as kale and spinach; fresh fruits including blueberries, raspberries and blackberries; nuts; fatty fish – all have multiple health benefits, including keeping your brain in top condition. There are now diets specifically designed to optimise brain health. For example, the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet, based on the Mediterranean diet, focuses on brain health and avoids cheese, butter, red meat and sugary foods. We know exercise has amazing health benefits for the whole body – not least the brain. Exercise increases the supply of oxygen to your brain. It encourages the growth of neurons and boosts connections and communication between brain cells, which in turn improves memory.1
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Another way to encourage the development of new brain cells is by giving your brain “workouts”, especially those that involve new challenges – you shouldn’t find them too easy! To challenge your brain, you could:
  • Learn to play an instrument
  • Take up a new hobby
  • Learn a new language
  • Take classes
  • Learn to play chess or card games.
Learning new things encourages the brain to create new neural pathways, which helps to keep your mind young. You can turn learning into fun activities that include the whole family. How about holding a weekly band practice, with everyone involved in learning the same song on different instruments? Or maybe stage a talent show to show off newly acquired skills and get those creative juices flowing. Play board games with your children to engage everyone in improving brain health and function.1
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Memory is a mental process involving three steps.
  1. The first step to acquiring a new memory is called encoding. It starts when your senses perceive something. Your brain “awakens” and prepares to create a new memory when you learn something new or have a new experience. Specialised neurons start signalling to each other, and this increased activity makes it more likely for a memory to be encoded.
  2. The brain organises new information, storing it as long-term, short-term, or sensory memories. Useful information is filtered out to keep, so your mind doesn’t become overloaded with unnecessary information – like a computer that cleans out excess, repetitive data to improve efficiency.
  3. Recalling is the process of retrieving the stored information. Memories become strengthened every time you recall information, as this reinforces the neuronal pathways forged when the original event took place. The more often you recall a memory, the more the pathway to that memory is strengthened.5
As you can tell, there are several points at which something might go awry with this process, which leads to memory difficulties.5 Often, a problem remembering might start with poor concentration or organisation. This happens if you aren’t properly absorbing the information to start with, or you aren’t processing and storing the information. Your powers of concentration wax and wane depending on many different factors and sometimes it may feel like no matter what you do, you just can’t focus.
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The brain needs certain vitamins and minerals for optimal memory function. The B vitamins are especially important, and they help prevent cognitive decline associated with ageing. Vitamin B12 and vitamin D especially play a role in helping to stave off dementia. Talk to your doctor about testing your blood to check on your levels of these two key vitamins, as you may need to take supplements if your levels are low.1   Have you considered herbal and natural brain boosting supplements?   The herbal supplement Mentat, from Himalaya, uses a combination of Ayurvedic herbs and scientifically proven ingredients in a powerful brain-boosting, stress-reducing formulation. The three main herbs used in Mentat’s unique formulation are Brahmi (Bacopa monnieri), Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) and Gotu Kola (Centella asiatica).   Brahmi is a perennial herb that has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for many centuries and it may increase brain chemicals that are needed for learning, thinking and memory. It might also offer protection from Alzheimer’s disease.14   Ashwagandha is a medicinal plant that has been used in indigenous and Ayurvedic medicine for more than 3000 years. A systematic review of clinical studies has shown that Ashwagandha helps alleviate stress and anxiety.12   Gotu kola has long been used to treat many conditions in India, China, and Indonesia. Among its many uses, it is known to improve mental clarity.13   These three powerful herbs in Mentat work synergistically to boost brain function. Clinical studies show that this formulation increases memory span and helps focus attention in both adults and kids. There is also evidence that Mentat may improve learning ability and helps manage ADD/ADHD in children.3.9   Other research suggests that Mentat can be used by school learners and students to improve concentration and information retention, which in turn may lead to improved academic performance. The study, published in Pharmacopsychoecologia, in which university students took two Mentat tablets daily for three months, compared to those who received a placebo, showed significantly increased memory span.4   Mentat can be taken by the whole family and works optimally when taken daily. Mentat conveniently comes in both tablet and syrup form and is available in quantities of 50 and 100 tablets, as well as 100ml and 200ml bottles of syrup. Syrups are suitable for children 3 years and older, while tablets are suitable for children 12 years and older. As with any supplement, always consult with your doctor to see if it is compatible with regular medication you are taking.

Medical References

  1. How to Improve Memory and Concentration? Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/topics/memory. Retrieved 22 September 2022
  2. Alzheimer’s Prevention: Does it Exist? 02 June 2022. Available at: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/alzheimers-disease/expert-answers/alzheimers-prevention/faq-20058140. Retrieved 22 September 202
  3. Mentat. Modulation of working memory by mentat and donepezil using scopolamine induced amnesia in rats. Available at: https://researchpapers.himalayawellness.in/mentat.htm. Retrieved 22 September 202
  4. Mentat. Effects of Mentat on memory span, attention, galvanic skin resistance (GSR) and muscle action potential (EMG) among normal adults. Available at: https://researchpapers.himalayawellness.in/mentat.htm. Retrieved 22 September 202
  5. Very Well Mind. What is memory and how does it work? 2020, May 15. Available at: https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-memory-2795006. Retrieved 23 September 2022
  6. Harvard Health. Harvard finds flavonoids linked to sharper thinking and memory. December 1, 2021. Available at: https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/harvard-finds-flavonoids-linked-to-sharper-thinking-and-memory. Retrieved 24 September 2022
  7. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. The Effects of Hydration Status on Cognitive Performances among Young Adults in Hebei, China: A Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) July 2018 Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6068860/ Retrieved 28 September 2022
  8. Harvard Health. 3 Ways to build brain-boosting social connections. September 8, 2021. Available at: 3 ways to build brain-boosting social connections – Harvard Health Retrieved 28 September 2022
  9. Mentat. A randomized double blind placebo-controlled drug trial with Mentat in children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. Available at: https://researchpapers.himalayawellness.in/mentat.htm. Retrieved 28 September 2022
  10. Ohio State University. How games like Wordle can improve health. 9 February 2022. Available at: https://health.osu.edu/health/brain-and-spine/how-games-like-wordle-can-improve-brain-health Retrieved 28 September 2022
  11. Scientific American. Why do I think better after I exercise? 1 July 2013. Available at: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-do-you-think-better-after-walk-exercise/#sa_body Retrieved 3 October 2022
  12. Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) for the treatment and enhancement of mental and physical conditions: A systematic review of human trials. Available at: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S2210803321000142 Retrieved 13 October 2022
  13. Gotu Kola Available at: https://www.mountsinai.org/health-library/herb/gotu-kola Retrieved 13 October 2022
  14. Bacopa – Uses, Side Effects, And More Available at: https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono761/bacopa#:~:text=Bacopa%20(Bacopa%20monnieri)%20is%20a,chemicals%20involved%20in%20Alzheimer%20disease. Retrieved 13 October 2022
Category 33.7 Combination Product. Complementary Medicine. Proprietary name Mentat Tablets. Composition per tablet: Bacopa monnieri Extr 136 mg; Centella asiatica Extr 70 mg; Withania somnifera Extr 52 mg; Evolvulus alsinoides Extr 52 mg; Nardostachys jatamansi Extr 52 mg; Valeriana wallichii Extr 50 mg; Embella ribes Extr 50 mg; Prunus amygdalus Extr 50 mg; Acorus calamus Extr 42 mg; Terminalia chebula Extr 36 mg; Emblica officinalis Extr 36 mg; Tinospora cordifolia Extr 36 mg; Celastrus paniculatus Extr 32 mg; Oroxylum indicum Extr 32 mg; Bacopa monnieri Pwdr 80 mg; Mucuna pruriens Pwdr 18 mg; Elettaria cardamomum Pwdr 18 mg; Terminalia arjuna Pwdr 18 mg; Anethum sowa Pwdr 18 mg; Ipomoea digitata Pwdr 18 mg; Withania somnifera Pwdr 18 mg; Zingiber officinale Pwdr 14 mg; Terminalia belerica Pwdr 14 mg; Myristica fragrans Pwdr 14 mg; Syzygium aromaticum Pwdr 10 mg; Muta pishti Pwdr 3 mg. Proprietary name Mentat syrup. Composition per 5ml: Bacopa monnieri Extr 144 mg; Centella asiatica Extr 70 mg; Withania somnifera Extr 53,8 mg; Evolvulus alsinoides Extr 52 mg; Nardostachys jatamansi Extr 52 mg; Valeriana wallichii Extr 50 mg; Embella ribes Extr 50 mg; Prunus amygdalus Extr 50 mg; Acorus calamus Extr 42 mg; Terminalia chebula Extr 36 mg; Emblica officinalis Extr 36 mg; Ti nospora cordifolia Extr 36 mg; Celastrus paniculatus Extr 32 mg; Oroxylum indicum Extr 32 mg; Mucuna pruriens Extr 1,8 mg; Elettaria cardamomum Extr 1,8 mg; Terminalia arjuna Extr 1,8 mg; Anethum sowa Extr 1,8 mg; Ipomoea digitata Extr 1,8 mg; Zingiber officinale Extr 1,4 mg; Terminalia belerica Extr 1,4 mg; Myristica fragrans Extr 1,4 mg; Syzygium aromaticum Extr 1,0 mg. The Himalaya Drug Company (Pty) Ltd, Yellow Wood Block Woodmead Business Park, 145 Western Service Road, 2191, Gauteng, South Africa| Tel: +27 (0)11 656 4284 | Website: https://himalayawellness.co.za. This unregistered medicine has not been evaluated by the SAHPRA for its quality, safety or intended use.

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