Thoughts on Focus, Stress, and Study.

The Australian HSC examinations are now on. Whether you're a year 12 student, facing challenges at work, or experiencing anxiety associated with university study, stress universally tends to ramp up around this time of the year. With negative It's important to take a step back, take a deep breath, and remember to prioritise your mental health. Chronic stress and associated mental health disorders hurt health both short and long-term, so it's more important than ever to make time for yourself.

tilt-shift photography of person in brown jacket


How do HSC examinations affect mental health?

HSC examinations, also known as Higher School Certificate examinations, can have a significant impact on the mental health of students. The pressure to perform well, the fear of failure, and the intense competition can lead to high levels of stress and anxiety. Many students experience sleep disturbances, loss of appetite, and difficulty concentrating during this period. It is crucial to address these mental health issues and provide support to students.


Understanding Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)

Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is a type of depression that occurs during specific seasons, typically during the winter months when there is less sunlight. The lack of sunlight can disrupt the body's internal clock and lead to feelings of fatigue, low mood, and difficulty concentrating. It is essential to be aware of the symptoms of SAD and seek appropriate treatment if needed.

As we come out of winter and approach daylight savings, take the opportunity to start maximising daylight when and where you can. Pop outside of the office on your lunch break, soak in some sun for 5 minutes and see how it affects your mood. Go for your daily walk outside instead of at the gym, or spend an hour in your garden this week for some added hands-on therapy whilst getting some vitamin D. Remember to always wear sunscreen if you're going to be exposed for more than a couple of minutes, and to avoid the sun during the hottest parts of the day or when the UV rating is high.

We recommend checking the weather, UV rating & daily temperature on the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) website for the best accuracy.

green leaf trees at daytime


The Impact of Daylight Savings on Mental Health

Daylight savings time can have both positive and negative effects on mental health. While gaining an extra hour of sleep can improve mood and well-being, the shift in daylight hours can disrupt the body's natural rhythm and lead to feelings of fatigue and irritability. It is important to adjust sleep schedules gradually and make use of natural light to mitigate the impact of daylight savings on mental health.

Try to work up to the change and adjust your sleep schedule by going to bed a little earlier in small increments. Start with 15 minutes earlier for two nights, then continue increasing the time by 15 minutes every two nights, leading up to Sunday 1st October.

Remember, the key to good sleep is maximising your comfort in bed. Make sure you are using the right height & firmness pillow for your sleeping position/s, and bedding with the right composition, weight and feel for your preferences. If your mattress is too stiff, try softening it with a mattress topper. If you're waking up too hot in the middle of the night, make sure you've got breathable sheets, like a bamboo cotton set, and that your quilt is lightweight or breathes well.

Here are some of our best-selling products for spring:

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Effective Time Management Techniques

1. Prioritize tasks: Make a to-do list and prioritize tasks based on their importance and deadlines. This will help you stay organized and focused.

2. Break tasks into smaller steps: Breaking down complex tasks into smaller, manageable steps can make them less overwhelming and easier to tackle.

3. Use time-blocking: Allocate specific time blocks for different activities or subjects. This helps create a structured schedule and prevents procrastination.

4. Take regular breaks: Taking short breaks between study sessions can improve focus and prevent burnout. Use these breaks to engage in activities that relax and rejuvenate you.

By implementing these techniques, you can improve your mental health and enhance your study experience. Remember, taking care of your well-being is just as important as academic success.


Quick Ways to Effectively Reduce Your Stress

1. Do a 10-minute meditation.

A common misconception about meditation is that you need to be sitting for a long period in some quiet, peaceful space. Whilst having a quiet space certainly helps, you don't need heaps of time, and you don't have to be sitting! The point of meditation is that it provides an opportunity to strengthen your mindfulness skills, and 10 minutes of practice is better than no practice at all.

We recommend finding a space and a position where you feel comfortable and can relax. Whether this is lying down in your bedroom, sitting in a chair at your local library, or standing amongst some native Australian flora at your local reserve. Set a 10-minute timer on your phone. Close your eyes, and count to ten slowly in your mind. Once you've counted, keep your eyes closed, and focus on your breathing. When thoughts come into your head, try to practice thinking of them as clouds, and allow them to float away as quickly as they float in. Redirect your thoughts to each breath in and out.

If you've picked a more noisy spot for meditating and you're finding it hard to focus, don't stress. Instead of focusing on your breathing, try to count as many individual sources of sounds as you can. Cycle your focus on each of the sounds you can hear. A common cycle for someone sitting outside might be: crickets chirping, birds cawing, voices chatting, lawn mower engine in the distance.

Keep going until your timer runs out. You should open your eyes and find yourself feeling a lot more grounded and calm.


2. Do 5 minutes of deep, controlled breathing.

Deep breathing exercises are incredibly good for quick relief from stress. The practice stimulates your vagus nerve, which is responsible for controlling things like your heart rate, blood pressure, breathing rate and production of cortisol, the stress hormone. If you're feeling overwhelmed during the day, take a quick break outside and do 5 minutes of deep breathing. You don't need to close your eyes for it, and loads of free apps can help you about timing and different rhythm options. YouTube also offers tons of tutorials.

A great rhythm to start with is the 4-2-4 method. Breathe in through your nose over four seconds, hold for 2 seconds, and breathe out through your mouth over four seconds.

If you possess any breathing difficulties or have a condition such as asthma, we recommend speaking with your doctor first before pursuing any breathing techniques.


3. Cold dunk your face or apply a cold pack on the back of your neck.

Immerse your face into a bowl of cold water to stimulate the vagus nerve. Studies have shown this technique decreases heart rate and stimulates your immune system.

A good alternative, if you don't have access to ice water or time for a cold dunk, is to apply a cold compress to the back of your neck OR chest, for a couple of seconds and up to 10 minutes.


How can I calm down or de-stress when I'm short on time?

If you're short on time (as we all tend to be at some point in our lives), try doing tip 2 whilst you're in the shower, which is something you're probably already doing daily. This maximises that period, giving you the opportunity to turn a daily portion of time into a relaxing period that refreshes you even more than it already does. You can also shower with cold water to achieve the same result as tip 3 (and also save on your hot water bill).

Whether you have upcoming exams, pressure in your career, or just general responsibilities weighing you down, you must prioritise your health as often as you can. Take the time to reflect on where and when you can use the tips above, and we hope this helps you get through the last three or so months of the year with a little more serenity.