Exam and Stress Tips!
Holistic therapist Tara Lavelle BSc, SDS Hom, MARH, VTCT Dip Reflexology & Aromatherapy talks exams and stress. She uses her experience in practice to explore how people undergoing stress can greatly benefit from a holistic approach including aromatherapy, reflexology and homeopathy.
Exam and Stress Tips with Tara
It’s exam season and for some, no matter how much revision and preparation is done, anxiety and
stress can still loom in the background. It may just be in the form of a few butterflies or a niggly
headache on the day of the exam or it may be extreme and lead to sleepless nights, panic attacks,
anxiety and depression.
Can complementary therapies help lower stress and anxiety? I have found, in my practice, that
people experiencing stress can greatly benefit from a holistic approach whether this is
aromatherapy, reflexology, homeopathy or a combination of all three treatments. I have worked
with children, teenagers, young people and adults who have come for support specifically around
exams or deadline time. Nutrition and exercise must also be taken into consideration and there are
therapists at THLC who can help in these areas.
Ideally it is best to have a consultation, especially if it is for a treatment for someone under 18yrs old
but following are some basic tips that you can try at home.
This ancient therapy works with the idea that essential oils have certain healing properties and that
if these are inhaled or diluted and massaged into the skin then they may be able to help improve
physical, emotional and mental health. (Please note you should never apply undiluted essential oils
to your skin, consult a qualified practitioner before using any essential oil if you are pregnant,
lactating, have blood pressure problems or epilepsy).
These are my five favourite oils for use during revision and exam time:
- Lavender - Can aid in relaxation, insomnia, anxiety and with feelings of anger
- Sweet Orange – Uplifting and calming. May be of use if there is anxiety, depression and lack
- Basil – Uplifting, helps with concentration, headaches & migraines
- Rosemary – Can aid with memory, alertness, clearing the mind and may help with
- Peppermint – Clears the mind, aids with headaches and relaxes the stomach
The easiest way to use the oils is with a cold water diffuser or oil burner, available widely online and
in some high street stores (do not leave lit candles unattended). You can either use the oils
separately or in combination to get the support that you need.
A good study mix is:
Basil 2 drops, Rosemary 2 drops and Sweet orange 4 drops in a cold water diffuser
A nice relaxation mix is:
Lavender 3 drops and Sweet Orange 3 drops
The oils can also be used on exam day. Simply place one drop of whichever oil is needed into your
favourite hand cream or on to a tissue and bring it with you to smell on the day before going into the
Reflexology is a wonderfully relaxing treatment involving pressure and massage on the feet and
hands. There are some points that are particularly useful for relaxation that you can do at home on
your own hands.
- Gently massage the tips of the thumb and fingers, which is considered to be the best area to
work for anything related to the brain, like studying. Just spending a few seconds doing this
may help to clear the mind after a long period of study
- Press the middle of the palm of your hand with the thumb from the opposite hand and hold
or massage for 30 seconds. This area reflects the solar plexus and can be incredibly calming.
It is a useful self-help technique for any stressful situation and is used by many public
- To support or calm down the adrenal glands, that are often over worked during times of
stress, find the fleshy part between your thumb and first finger. With the opposite thumb
and first finger, squeeze the area close to where the bones meet, with the thumb on the top
of your hand and the finger on the palm side of your hand. When you find the tender spot
then this is the right place to squeeze and massage for 10 seconds. This point is particularly
useful during or immediately after an acute flare up of stress like a panic attack or whilst
waiting to go into an exam room.
During times of stress it may also be beneficial to have regular weekly sessions of reflexology to
balance the whole body and mind, going back to monthly or quarterly top up sessions once the time
of stress has finished.
Homeopathy is a system of complementary medicine used by millions of people globally. Most
people will know about Arnica or teething granules, which are popular remedies for people who do
not traditionally use complementary medicine. It is a wonderful treatment that looks at the
individual and how they respond to their health condition, whether that is physical, mental or
emotional. In low potency, homeopathy can be used by anyone, although with chronic conditions it
is always best to consult a qualified homeopath. Following are three general remedies that may be
worth trying during exam time. If you are not confident trying out these remedies then exam stress
and anxiety can be looked at during a drop-in appointment at the Monday morning clinic 10am to
Aconite is a great remedy to think of during an acute situation when there is a lot of fear
which comes on suddenly, like you might see during a panic attack. Someone may be truly
scared about their up coming exams, be terrified about being around people and feel as if
something dreadful is about to happen. They will often look frightened with dilated pupils,
palpitations and trembling. Often they will feel worse at night, especially around midnight
and may wake at this time and find it difficult to calm down.
May be useful when there is a lot of apprehension and worry before an event, like
before an exam. Consider this remedy if someone is exhausted from over study and worry to
the point that they start to tremble. They will be worse for getting hot and being in stuffy
rooms, they may forget everything as soon as they get into an exam room, they may get diarrhoea from anticipation before an exam and they may crave sugar and sweets which only makes their problems worse. They are better when they are with someone and worse alone and you may even find them pacing around hurriedly before an exam.
Consider this when someone is anxious and over responsible, for example a
child who studies to the extreme and puts themselves under an enormous amount of
pressure. No amount of study is quite good enough for them and they often worry to the
point where they become obsessive about their studying, or the anxieties may spill into
other areas like worry about their own or their parent’s health. They may be irritable,
critical, fastidious and insecure, leading to panic attacks and waking between midnight and
2am. They may also look pale, anxious and feel chilly. They are generally better for being
around trusted people who are able to reassure them and their anxiety gets a lot worse
when they are alone.
These three remedies are available online and from health food shops and large high street
chemists. Use 6c or 30c potency and try one tablet, wait three hours then try another tablet if
needed. If the remedy doesn’t help after three doses then stop and try a different remedy or consult
a homeopath. Homeopathy works on the idea of the minimum dose so as soon as you get relief from
your symptoms you do not need to repeat the remedy unless your symptoms return.
Bach Flower Essences
Last but not least is a good old favourite; Rescue remedy. It is a combination of five Bach Flower
remedies which may be helpful with anxiety before and during exams. It comes in drops, a spray,
cream and pastilles and there is a non-alcohol version of the drops too. You can dilute a few drops
into a bottle or glass of water which you can bring with you into an exam room. It is available literally
everywhere including chemists, health food shops and some supermarkets.
Contact the clinic to book an appointment with Tara. Special exam time combined aromatherapy
and reflexology offer available during May and June!