There are a number of things you can do to help ensure that your time in school is happy and healthy.
Exercise – Join a gym, go for a walk, run, surf, climb, dance, box, join an aerobics class, row, sail, do some yoga, play football, cycle, swim, fence, play a game of rugby… Whatever you do, and whatever you enjoy, make sure that you stay active. Find an activity you love – it doesn’t have to feel like hard work to be good for you! Being physically active has been consistently shown to improve mood, as well as hoping you to maintain good physical health.
Eat Well – What we eat can also have a direct impact on our mental and physical health. Eating too much, eating too little, or eating the wrong things can affect our mood and how we feel about ourselves. Occasional treats are fine, but try to avoid regularly consuming food and drink that is high in fat and sugar, such as crisps, sweets and energy drinks. Ready-meals or energy drinks can seem particularly appealing when you have limited time, or if you’re feeling tired or stressed, so try to look after yourself in other ways too. Aim for regular meals and a balanced diet that includes lots of fruit and vegetables, and try to drink water instead of sugary drinks. Avoid extreme or ‘faddy’ diets – they’re usually unsustainable and not good for your mental or physical health. Think of yourself like an expensive sports car; if you want the best performance, only the premium fuel will do!
Get plenty of sleep – On average, teenagers need 8 – 10 hours of sleep per night (Source: sleepfoundation.org). During the time we are asleep, our bodies are able to replenish energy stores and make repairs, while our minds organise and store the memories of the day before. Getting enough sleep is therefore essential for good health and effective learning. Tiredness also makes it difficult to engage with new concepts, and can affect our mood. Don’t be tempted to skimp on sleep in order to fit more into your day – even if it’s to do extra school work. In the long-term this may actually be detrimental to your learning.
Socialise – Spend time with people. Take time to chat with friends and family – not only will they appreciate it, but it’s good for you too.
Be creative – Give your brain a break by putting your worries to one side and immersing yourself in something creative. You don’t need to be an artist to make things. You could paint, draw, write, sew, knit, crochet, make slime, braid a friendship bracelet, make pottery, bake a cake, build a website… There are so many possibilities. Research has shown that engaging in creative tasks can have a positive impact on our sense of wellbeing. Why not get together with a group of friends to do something crafty?
Relax – Yes, you want to do well at school, however, that doesn’t mean spending every waking hour working. Relaxation is important too – it’s all about balance. To work effectively you need to be in the right frame of mind. Take time out to have a long soak in bath, listen to music or watch your favourite Netflix series. It’s OK to take a break sometimes. You might also want to explore ways of consciously relaxing, using techniques such as mindfulness. There are a number of good apps you can download on your phone which will take you through guided meditations. For example ‘Calm’, ‘Headspace’ and ‘Simple Habit’.
Be kind – Be a listening ear and a caring voice for those around you, see the best in people and accept differences when you encounter them. Please use social media responsibly – don’t forget that as soon as you have sent a message or posted something online it is out of your control and anyone could read it.
Revise well – When it comes to revision, DON’T leave it to the last minute. Research suggests that the most effective learning takes place over a prolonged period of time. Every time you go back over material you have learned, you strengthen the neural pathways in your brain, embedding the memory, and making it easier to recall the material when necessary. Cramming can work in the short term, but it’s a risky strategy – you are much more likely to forget the material when you most need it, and you almost certainly won’t remember it in the long-term.
During exam periods, try to use a variety of revision methods so you don’t get bored. Don’t just copy your notes – practice exam-style questions, work with a friend, create diagrams and mind maps, make up a song, poem or acronym, and create key word flashcards to test yourself. Ensure you take regular 10 minute breaks approximately every 50-90 minutes. It might sound obvious, but start your revision with the topics that scare you the most. It can be tempting to work on the areas you enjoy and feel most comfortable with, rather than the areas that need the most attention.
Ask for help – Don’t struggle in silence. When we’re having a difficult time it can be easy to believe that we’re alone or that no-one will understand, but this isn’t the case. Asking for help isn’t a sign of weakness – it shows maturity and self-awareness. Don’t wait until things seem overwhelming or unmanageable; the sooner you ask, the easier the problem is to solve.