How to prepare your brain and yourself before a big test/presentation

There is a ton of research out there invested in helping individuals understand the importance of nutrition, relaxation and exercising on a regular basis. But did you know that this same research also provides fascinating information on how these  play a vital role on mitigating stress levels, improving memory, and increasing overall brain functioning?

For those of you preparing for a big test or have an upcoming presentation, these tips can help! Take control and use what researchers have found to your advantage:

  1. Eat all the brain foods you can. Take advantage all the research that has been done and eat the foods that are recommended to assist with overall brain functioning. Here is a brief list of some examples of foods that you should be eating while preparing for a big test or presentation.
    1. Oily fish: According the the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, eating fish like salmon regularly can reduce the risk of dementia as you get older. Since salmon contains Omega-3 fatty acids it is a great type of protein that improves neural functioning. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, Omega-3 fatty acids help with brain memory and performance.
    2. Cruciferous vegetables: The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and Harvard  suggests that eating vegetables such as bok choy, brussel sprouts, cabbage and broccoli may help boost memory and keep aging brains sharp.
    3. Berries such as blueberries not only reduce the levels of toxins in your bloodstream, but they also contain antioxidants that improve blood flow to the brain and enhance neural activity. WebMD also mentions that berries have been shown to assist with age-related memory loss.
    4. Whole grains: A serving size of whole grains can give you that natural boost of energy you may need for those long nights of studying and/or preparing too. These types of foods also promote good blood flow throughout the body and are a good source of fiber for those suffering from constipation issues.
    5. Nuts contain vitamin E which helps with memory decline as we age. Walnuts also contain Omega-3 fatty acids that enhance memory and promote cardiovascular health just like oily fish do!
    6. Dark chocolate: WebMD mentions that dark chocolate has antioxidant properties as well as natural stimulants like caffeine. Due to these properties, it can enhance focus and concentration. It also stimulates the production of endorphins which helps improve mood. If eaten in moderation this is a great studying snack; the darker the chocolate the better.

2. Listen to relaxing music. A book titled Principles and Practice of Stress Management indicated that both music and music therapy elicit physiological, psychological, cognitive, social, and spiritual responses, and these effects can clearly support a rationale for the use of music and music therapy in stress management. In a lab experiment in the UK, they concluded that one specific song reduced their participants’ anxiety by 65%. According to Dr. David Lewis-Hodgson of Mindlab International, which conducted the research, this specific song produced a greater state of relaxation than any other music tested to date. An article by Melanie Curtain mentioned that the group that created “Weightless” collaborated with sound therapists to carefully arrange harmonies and rhythms to help slow a listener’s heart rate, reduce blood pressure and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. How fascinating is that! If you are curious about the song, you can search Marconi Union- “Weightless” or listen to it through Spotify.

3. Exercise. Setting some time aside to exercise can flood the brain with chemicals that enhance functions such as memory, problem solving, and decision making. It has also shown to drastically reduce stress levels as well.  In an article in the Harvard Health Publications website, it was mentioned that “exercise reduces levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain that are the body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators. Endorphins are responsible for the runner’s high and for the feelings of relaxation and optimism that accompany many hard workouts..”. But something as simple as a 20 minute stroll outside can help with all these great positive benefits. So if you’re feeling that you don’t have enough time because you’re swamped with studying or preparation, ignore those thoughts. Make time. Don’t be a disservice to yourself when there’s so much research out there that tells you what to do. Twenty minutes can produce long-lasting effects.

 

 

For more information on the research mentioned, click on the links below:

WebMD list of “brain foods”

University of Maryland Medical Center info on Omega-3 fatty acids

American Journal of Clinical Nutrition article on fish intake and dementia

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics vegetables and memory improvement

Harvard Health Publications info on memory and healthy eating

WedMD info on berries and brain function

WedMD slide show on whole grains

Livestrong: Nuts and Omega 3 Fatty Acids

Melanie Curtain: Mindlab International and the “Weightless” track

Book: Principles and Practice of Stress Management

Harvard Health Publications website- exercising to relax

 

 


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