It’s that time of year again, so many people becoming stressed and anxious because of revision, and hitting deadlines for exams and course ends. The pressure is on to get the grades your need to move forward to university.
A lot of people come to me for solution focused hypnotherapy at this time because they can’t see a way out, they know they are stressed and not working to their best ability but they don’t know what they need to do, just that they want to feel better.
The first thing I tell them is it’s not unusual.
In fact, their reaction to the exams or deadlines is a powerful natural one that actually comes from our cave man ancestors.
We have a very powerful primitive part of our brain that deals with threat and its main focus is to keep us alive. If we are dealing with day to day activities and at the same time are stressed and anxious our primitive brain takes over as it believes we are in a crisis, we then see everything in a negative light.
I’m sure you have a had days when you get up, the sun is shining, you feel good and positive with lots of things to do, and feeling busy does not worry you.
Then other days, you wake up with a bad feeling, can’t put your finger on it but you know it will be a bad day and it is difficult to get anything done.
This is how strong our mind is, it can decide what sort of day we are going to have.
We have one brain but two very distinct minds.
The Intellectual Brain
The first is the ‘intellectual brain.
We use this when we are busy but feeling positive, we look ahead to come up with solutions to situations we come across, revision goes well. When we are in this part of the brain we get things right, we are positive and often don’t even realise we are working hard, it just keeps on happening.
The Primitive Brain
The second part is called the ‘primitive brain’ or ‘chimp brain’, we use this when stress and anxiety rises, this part is very fast and very strong as its only role is to keep us alive.
You may be revising and feeling tired, you look at a book you have read many times and think, “I can’t remember any of this”, “this is useless, I’m going to fail”.
This negative thought activates the “chimp brain” which sends signals to our body which shows as churning tummy, faster heart rate and sweaty hands.
The Brain Fog
This then activates a loop between our mind and body where because of this powerful negative thought mind and body keep sending signals to confirm that you are in danger as it sees the exam as a crisis. Then you have are more and more negative thoughts, causing lots of stress, anxiety, depression and anger.
This is the brain fog we can all suffer from.
The “chimp brain” thinks it has to deal with this “crisis” and won’t let your “intellectual brain” get a look in, so you can’t think clearly and cannot recall the facts that are actually in your brain but too much is going on for you to retrieve it.
Clear Your Mind of Brain Fog
Here are some tips for you to keep your mind clear of brain fog and to reap all the benefits of the revision you have done.
- Good sleep. You may think doing an all night revision session is a good thing. It isn’t. All the research shows that during the night the brain sorts out what has caused us anxiety during the day is sorted out in our mind during dream sleep and we see these memories as facts rather than laden with heavy negative emotion. During sleep we also move what we have learnt that day from our short -term memory to our long- term memory. The brain hoovers up memories that are weak and stores what is strong. So, if you read facts once, this will probably not be stored for future recall. If you revise these facts several times in different ways, these will be moved to the long -term memory where we need them. If you have little or poor sleep these facts will not be stored for the exam.
- Eat well. You are not only fuelling your body but also your brain when you eat. Often if we are feeling down and stressed we can turn to high sugar and high fat food that we end up craving. Our mind needs chemicals to work, what we need is the good chemicals such as Serotonin and Dopamine which we get when we are doing the things we like and thinking positively. When we are not producing these the brain needs something to replace the good chemicals and that is when we believe we need sugar and fat, the spikes these give us replicate the “feel good feeling” but we know that after a sugar high, we crash again and again look for the next quick hit. Eat food that you enjoy and know can sustain you whilst you study, slow releasing carbs and protein rather than sugar and fat.
- Do something you enjoy in between study sessions. When we are stressed and busy with revision, we often stop doing the things we enjoy, thinking we have to spend all the time revising. Revise well for a period of time and then do something you enjoy and be with others. To produce the “happy” drug Serotonin we need positive thought, positive activity and positive inter-action. Be with others, doing something you enjoy and think positively about it. When you go back to your work after doing this you will be in your “intellectual” brain”, feeling refreshed and eager to work.
Remember that the “brain fog” is your mind’s reaction to stress, being on red alert for danger.
Reducing your stress and looking at the exam and revision in a positive way will help you recall the facts when and where you need them.