My daughter has her yearly exams coming up. She’s not doing her HSC yet (not by a long shot) but she still feels the nerves. So we came up with a list of quick ways to calm down so we can get the brain working properly before a big test. Some of these you could do at school or work and some are more general quick fixes to do at home.

  1. Breathe – there’s a great app created by the Australian mental health team at ReachOut called “Breathe”. It works by taking your pulse, getting you to breathe very slowly for a minute, then taking your pulse again to show you how it has worked. It’s called “bio-feedback” and can be very helpful in getting people to see how the things they can control (like breath rate) can affect the things we don’t think we can control (like pulse).
  2. Alternatively, you can just take four slow breaths in and out, to the count of five on the intake and the count of eight on the out.
  3. Externalise – have a fidget cube, a stone or a stress ball in your pocket. When you touch your stress object, note how it feels and concentrate on the texture of it. This takes your mind off your current worry and gives you an alternative thing to put in your brain.
  4. Five things – list five thing you hear, five things you can see, five things you can smell. You might have to slow down and concentrate, which is the point. It’s a good instant relaxer.
  5. Here’s a three-minute relaxer from Harvard Medical School. Good for waiting in an exam hall for your paper to be delivered.
  6. Move your body – a quick walk around the block can help burn off nervous energy, but if you don’t have that luxury, you could do ten star jumps or stretch your arms and legs.
  7. My husband swears by Sleepy-time tea to help him relax before bed. Any warm, non-caffeinated drink would probably be just as good.
  8. Got an animal? Studies have shown that patting your cat or dog brings down blood pressure and helps with mindfulness.