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Year 12 can be a ridiculously busy year. This is especially true during Term 3. The assessments are piling up so fast they seem to be occurring daily, the amount of expected homework only seems to be increasing and exams, and the need to revise for them, are rapidly approaching.
On top of this, many students try and hold down part-time jobs to earn some money, there’s 18th birthday parties left, right and centre and sometimes you just need some downtime with friends and family. It’s also about the only time that school holidays aren’t much of a holiday – with some cruel teachers even taking to calling them ‘study breaks’.
It’s no wonder that at this time of year, with so many things competing for your time, it can be stressful, and things that aren’t absolutely vital start to get cut out of your life.
For many people, one of the first things to go is sport or exercise. Ultimately, that can be a really bad idea – it just adds to the problem.
When you experience something stressful, the adrenal cortex (the outer layer of the adrenal gland, which is located on top of the kidneys) is stimulated to produce hormones known as corticosteroids, or ‘stress hormones’. The most well-known of these is cortisol.
If there is an increased amount of cortisol (due to stress) for an extended period of time, the immune system can be impaired and therefore, there can be an increased chance of getting sick. Extended periods of stress can also lead to headaches, dizziness and fatigue.
No-one wants to be experiencing this, especially during Term 3 and in the lead up to exams. That’s why finding a way to get rid of stress is essential.
Exercise can be a really effective way of reducing stress levels, and help you to stay mentally refreshed when times get a bit tough.
Exercise can physically ‘burn off’ stress hormones such as cortisol by using them for energy, resulting in reduced feelings of stress. It can also help to reduce the tension within muscles, which can cause headaches.
Exercise helps to build some strength and stamina, so that you and your body are better prepared to deal with stressors that might be heading your way in the near future. It also produces chemicals known as ‘beta-endorphins’, which boost your overall wellbeing and, to put it simply, make you feel good.
On top of these biological and psychological reasons that exercise is useful, it can also be a great way to relax your mind and just ‘switch off’ for a little bit. Whether it’s doing specific training or just going for a quick jog, exercise gives your mind a much-needed chance to rest and let your body do the work. This can be great if you’re stewing or worrying over something.
Finally, exercise can be a great way to interact with your mates. Whether it’s going to footy training a couple of times a week and catching up with team mates, or going for a jog with a running group, exercise can give you a chance to get some (often much-needed) social interaction with people from outside your school – where the stress can feel contagious sometimes.
Reducing stress is really important to do well in Year 12. For me, physical activity was easily the best way to do so, and well worth the time that I put into it. If you’re a naturally active person, or even if you’re not, it really is a win-win.