Stress and the HSC


Stress not only affects adults, children and teenagers can also suffer it’s ill effects. Especially when studying for the dreaded HSC.

One of the most stressful times in anyone’s life is sitting for the HSC. As adults, most of us have learnt to recognise when we are stressed. Everyone is different, for some of us the first sign is feeling irritable, for others stress brings on a migraine or eczema. Stress is not the sole domain of adults, however children and teenagers are less likely to connect their symptoms to stress. Look out for signs such as headaches or migraines, sore back and shoulders, upset stomach, trouble sleeping, eating lots of junk food or lack of appetite, as these may all be signs your child is feeling the pressure.

If you have a teenager in your life enduring this horrible time, the following suggestions will help…

  • Good nutrition is even more important than usual at this time. Your teenager may think that Coke, chocolate, caffeine and foods high in sugar will help get them through late night study because of the quick burst of energy they give, but these foods have a negative affect on concentration and memory, and also cause them to feel more tired.
  • For your teenager to be performing at their best they need to be eating a diet high in fresh vegetables and fruit, as well as good quality protein (fish, eggs, yoghurt, beef and chicken). Including protein at every meal will balance and maintain blood sugar levels – necessary for energy and concentration. Additionally, the ‘good’ carbohydrates (wholegrain cereals and breads, brown rice, vegetables and legumes) will provide them with all the energy they need. Make sure they eat small meals regularly throughout the day starting with a healthy breakfast.

Healthy meals


Raw unsweetened muesli with yoghurt and fruit, Scrambled eggs and/or baked beans on whole meal toast. Fruit smoothie – milk, berries, banana, protein powder or raw egg, honey


Tuna salad in pita bread, lean beef burger, minestrone soup and bread roll, chicken avocado and salad sandwich, egg spinach and tomato wrap in lavash bread.


Thai fish curry, beef stir fry with hokkien noodles, lamb and vege kebabs and rice, vegetable lasagne.

Ensure you have healthy snacks readily available, for example – sushi, healthy muffins, nuts, dips (hummus), and pita bread filled with tuna and salad.

  • 1.5 litres of water daily. The brain needs to be hydrated to be functioning at its best. Coffee and soft drinks will lead to dehydration, which can affect their concentration and cause fatigue and irritability.
  • Help your teen get organised — get them to draw up a realistic timetable for study and revision, which also includes time for exercise and other activities such as catching up with friends or seeing a movie. Breaks will help keep them stay focused and reduce stress levels.
  • Exercise gets the blood flowing through the body, which delivers oxygen to the brain — an important organ during study! Exercise is also a great way to relax as it releases the ‘feel good’ hormones called endorphins into our bodies. Exercise can also help with fatigue and may improve sleep. Why not go for a walk together, or take off to the beach for a swim. This is not only good exercise but also gives you a chance to talk through any concerns they are having. Be supportive and help them to keep ‘it’ all in perspective.
  • In addition to a good diet, supplements can be very useful at this time. A good B complex taken every morning with breakfast will boost energy and help control stress. Magnesium will help relax tense muscles, also helping relieve headaches and sleep problems. Glutamine — an amino acid known as ‘brain food’ is essential for functioning of the brain and memory.