Spring is in the air, as nature revises itself, it is time to look at our own potential for change. Chatting to my younger patients, they all tell me that this season will be dominated by revision. Along with holidays and break, there is homework and exams.
This appears to be the way of school life in the modern world. The demands increase, the pressures increase, the stress and anxiety increase, and the pains increase. Is this right? 1:5 children reporting chronic pain. Chronic pain is the number one global health burden and depression is at number two — and frequently they come as a pair.
Body systems are on alert. They are working hard for survival instead of orchestrating the biology of health. In adults we used to call the effects ‘burn out’. These systems that protect us can only function at that level for a finite period of time.
Of course there is nothing wrong with hard, conscientious work. But, we need to regularly put the heavy bags down and take a break.
If you or your kids are entering the revision season, here are some handy tips for them to reduce the risk of ill-health, persisting stress responses, and flare-ups of existing aches and pains. We not only need to be physically fit, we also need to be emotionally fit. The two are not exclusive but instead come together to form the whole person. The whole person is not in isolation to their environment, beliefs or what has been before. Dwelling on negative events in the past and anticipating an unpleasant future both create suffering, until you realise that both are in our minds. The problem is that we play these out in our body, e.g. tension, pain, anxiety. It is not the situation that is important, but rather how we respond.
There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so. Shakespeare (Hamlet)
My Tips for Healthy Revision
Make a timetable that incorporates your best time of day for learning, chunks of 40 minutes, exercise, movement.
Motion is lotion: change your posture every 15-20 minutes; stand up and move around every 40 minutes
Take 3 breaths every 20-30 minutes (when you breathe out, muscle tension naturally relaxes, which you will notice if you pay attention). The breaths can be slightly deeper than normal. Of course you can do this for longer and more often if you wish. Focusing on breathing anchors you to the present moment which means that you are putting down the heavy bags of ‘past’ and ‘future’. The bonus is clarity of thought and hence performance, memory and learning can improve as you become more efficient.
Exercise before you start working; e.g. a walk, a jog. And a little more later as well; 20-30 minutes is good.
Test yourself on the material you are learning — many people tell me that they copy their notes out again and again. You will have a nice pile of notes, but how much do you know?
** BONUS tip 1: set up the right environment– your desk space, the lighting, odours (don’t under-estimate the effects of smell; e.g./ use an infuser for a fresh ambience).
** BONUS tip 2: dress for work and sit for work – this will put you in the right mindset. We respond to our body language as much as our body language communicates how we are feeling. Keep moving (motion is lotion) but concentrate and engage more by sitting up.
** BONUS tip 3: make sure you have enough sleep — minimum 8 hours, and if you are tired, have a power nap between 1pm and 3pm for 20-30 minutes. You need to refresh and renew and you need sleep to learn.