Insights

In partnership with Will Martin, qualified teacher, tutor, and qualified nutritional therapist

As a nutritional therapist with a background in teaching and tutoring, I understand the unique challenges that students with ADHD face, especially when it comes to managing exam stress. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the intricacies of the nervous system, explore how it functions, and uncover effective strategies to calm it for students.

Understanding the Nervous System: A Brief Overview

The nervous system is a complex network that regulates and coordinates the body’s activities, playing a crucial role in how we respond to stress. It comprises two main components: the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS).

The nervous system plays a vital role in coordinating the body’s activities, with the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) promoting rest, digestion, and relaxation, while the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) activates the body’s stress response.

How the Nervous System Reacts to Stress: The Fight-or-Flight Response

When faced with stress, the body’s natural response is the “fight-or-flight” mechanism. This evolutionary survival instinct prepares the body to confront a threat or flee from it. While this response is essential for survival, prolonged stress, such as exam anxiety, can lead to heightened nervous system activity, impacting focus, concentration, and overall well-being.

Strategies to Calm the Nervous System for Students with ADHD:

Nutritional Support:

  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Incorporate foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as salmon, chia seeds, and walnuts. These support brain function and can contribute to a calmer nervous system.
  • Balanced Meals: Ensure your child is having a balanced meal with a mix of complex carbohydrates, proteins, and healthy fats to provide sustained energy and stabilise blood sugar levels.
  • Other foods like nuts and seeds, contain tryptophan, that promotes the production of serotonin, is associated with mood regulation. Dark chocolate, rich in flavonoids, can help reduce stress hormones and improve mood. Additionally, foods high in B vitamins support the production of neurotransmitters that promote relaxation.

Hydration:

  • Water Intake: Dehydration can amplify stress. Encourage regular water intake to maintain hydration levels, as even mild dehydration can affect cognitive function and exacerbate feelings of stress.

Mindfulness and Breathing Exercises:

  • Deep Breathing: Teach students simple deep-breathing exercises to activate the body’s relaxation response. Controlled, slow breaths can help reduce stress hormones and promote a sense of calm.
  • Mindful Practices: Introduce mindfulness techniques, such as guided meditation or mindful walking, to enhance focus and bring about a state of mental clarity.
  • Try this app.

Adequate Sleep:

  • Consistent Sleep Schedule: Establishing a consistent sleep routine is vital for regulating the nervous system. Ensure students get enough sleep by maintaining a regular sleep-wake cycle.

Mindful Movement:

  • Movement stimulates the release of endorphins – the body’s natural stress relievers. It also enhances the balance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. Yoga and stretching incorporate movement and deep breathing, further activating the parasympathetic response, helping to alleviate stress in both the body and mind.

Create a Supportive Environment:

  • Quiet Study Spaces Provide quiet, organised study environments that minimise distractions. This helps students with ADHD focus better, reducing unnecessary stressors.

Encourage Breaks:

  • Taking a break can calm the nervous system by allowing time for rest and relaxation, which helps reduce stress hormones like cortisol. Stepping away from tasks or activities that may be causing stress provides an opportunity for the mind and body to recharge, leading to restored state of calm.

Establish Realistic Goals:

  • Set Achievable Targets: Help students set realistic goals for study sessions and exams. Breaking down tasks into manageable steps reduces the perceived threat, mitigating stress.

Visual Aids, Organisational Tools and Journaling:

  • Color-Coded Systems: Implement color-coded notes, planners, or calendars to aid organisation.
  • Visual aids can provide clarity and reduce the cognitive load on students.
  • Journaling can be a powerful stress reduction tool for exams, providing a structured outlet for students to express their thoughts, fears, and goals. The act of writing fosters self-reflection, clarity, and emotional release, contributing to a calmer mindset and enhanced coping mechanisms during the exam period.
  • Visit Happy Self Journal

Professional Support:

  • Nutritional Therapy Sessions: Consider seeking guidance from a nutritional therapist for personalised strategies. A nutritional therapist can assess individual needs and recommend specific nutritional and lifestyle interventions to support a balanced nervous system.

The bottom line…

Incorporating these strategies into the lives of students with ADHD can significantly contribute to calming the nervous system and managing exam stress.

By combining nutritional support, mindfulness practices, and a conducive environment, we empower these students to approach exams with confidence and resilience.

As a nutritional therapist, my goal is to provide holistic guidance, recognising the interconnectedness of nutrition, lifestyle, and mental well-being for optimal academic performance.

In addition to tutoring with The Golden Circle for the past couple of years, Will supports parents to transform their child’s ADHD, using the science of nutrition and lifestyle.

Throughout his experience in the classroom, Will has witnessed first-hand the challenges associated with behaviour, attainment, and focus, as well as the pressures faced by parents and students to improve both behaviour and academic performance.

Will’s method, The Martin Method, is built upon his qualifications in teaching, nutritional therapy, and degree in Sports and Exercise Science. His signature programme ‘Rebalance: ADHD’ is designed to transform your child’s ADHD over the course of 3 months by empowering your child with evidence-based strategies that enable them to flourish and thrive.

For more information on Will, his programme, and The Martin Method, you can arrange a free ADHD consultation here. You can also find his Instagram @willmartinnutrition and website here.

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