10 exam season hacks

A parent’s guide to turning your home into a study sanctuary

Listen up, dear parents, this right here is your time to shine. Exam season is upon us and in households across the country teenage tension is at fever pitch. Our kids have long surpassed our general knowledge of science and literature and then there’re subjects for which we are no help at all (trigonometry anyone?). So we’re tapping out of the actual study, and directing our good intentions towards optimising study conditions instead. Here’s how to create a stress-free study sanctuary.


1. Organise spaces for calm, focused minds

The science is in: clutter is bad for productivity. According to Princeton University neuroscientists, multiple stimuli in the visual field compete for something called “neural representation”. In other words, the more stuff you have around you, the more taxing it is on your brain.

2. Bring focus back to the workspace

Try a suite of matching folders and trays and a general sense of calm and order, while a pin board will keep important schedules and notes off the desk. If their desk looks like it has been hit by a bomb, now might not be the time for a rescue mission, but a spot of organising throughout the rest of the house will at least help you recapture your Zen.


3. Gear bedrooms for sleeping

Late night cram sessions are counterproductive. The results from a recent study at the Griffith Lab show a good night’s sleep consolidates memory. Encourage students to hit the sack by making bed a pleasant place to be. According to Dr Sarah Biggs, Conference Committee Chair, Australasian Sleep Association the best way to make the bedroom more conducive to sleep is to make it a technology-free zone at night. “The combination of light from electronic devices, the nature of the interactions, and the notification noises when new messages come through are a sleep killer.” Other things to consider are light and temperature, she says. “The bedroom should not be too cold or too hot and sleeping in darkness is best.”

4. Let in the light

The answer to the 4pm slump is natural light. As the scientists at Solar Energy and Building Physics Laboratory at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology found out, natural light increases mental acuity in the afternoon and evening, improves sleep at night and keeps cortisol – the stress hormone – in check. Dedicate a sunny spot in the house as a temporary study zone or ramp up natural light levels in an existing study area by throwing open the curtains and using mirrors to amplify daylight.

5. Combat low battery anxiety

That nervous feeling when your phone battery hits below 20 percent is a real thing. And it can strike any time – before, during or after exams. According to a survey by LG, 90 percent of us panic about losing power on our phones. Keep Millennials calm and in control by arming your home with an artillery of recharge stations, in the kitchen, hallway and bedrooms. Having formalised plug-in zones will also keep kids off the screens for meals and sleep.

6. Illuminate the room

When late-night study is inevitable, a good reading lamp will keep students in ‘the zone’. Home office lighting is a delicate affair; too little results in eye strain while harsh artificial lighting can induce headaches. Look for a lamp with a beam of localised light and a moveable arm to direct its shine over the work surface.


7. Create chill out spaces

Study breaks are good for learning. In fact molecular physiologists at the National Institute for Physiological Sciences in Okazaki found rest intervals between study sessions improve memory while research out of University of California Irvine found that stress hormones disrupt the process of creating and storing memories. The answer, according to the science of style, is a blissful outdoor retreat. Set up a sheltered nook away from it all, complete with a comfortable daybed or even a hammock, and speakers for music.

8. Brain food for dinner

“You need brain food the night before a big exam,” says nutritionist Lola Berry. “Think salmon cooked in coconut oil and a big fresh salad.”

9. Grab and go breakfast

There’s a boatload of evidence to suggest breakfast is good for brain function. Just check out this study from University of California-Davis. When there’s no time for a sit-down breakfast before an exam, send students on their way with a breakfast pot of oats, yoghurt and fruit.

10. Scent intelligence

Look to aromatherapy to focus the mind. “Rosemary, cypress, sweet basil, black pepper, lemon, ginger, bergamot and vetiver have all been used to help with preparing the mind for the influx of information studying can bring,” says Charlynn Avery, Aura Cacia National Educator.For an afternoon pick-me-up, create a simple room spritzer with four ounces of water plus an essential oil or essential oil blend,” she adds. After the exam run a hot bath with a couple of drops of chamomile, geranium, jasmine or lavender to help your weary student unwind.


And if all else fails, there’s always wine (for you, not them).

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