6 Ways to Stay Ahead of the Class

Published on September 21, 2015

When it comes to moving to the front of the class, there's a lot more to it than cracking the books. Good students know that to keep up their GPA, they need to give their mind, body and spirit some TLC.* Here's a quick study guide with simple lifestyle tips to help anyone stay ahead of the class this year.

Diet It's hard to focus on a history lesson with a growling belly. Starting the day off with a healthy breakfast can help keep energy levels stable until lunchtime. Instead of a sugary or carb-laden meal that will burn off by the end of first period, choose a breakfast that has lean protein and fiber for satiety. To get a jump-start on the day's fruit and veggie quota, add a couple of those for good measure, too. (Need inspiration? Find some great recipes here!)

Continue the trend at lunchtime, forgoing sweetened beverages and cafeteria fries for a nutritious homemade meal with a variety of colors and foods. And don't forget about snacks. Eating something every few hours promotes healthy, normal blood sugar levels.*

Sleep School-age children need nine to 11 hours of sleep daily, and despite their protests, teens need at least eight.(1) A regular bedtime and a calm, quiet environment free from screen media can help kids-and grown-ups-get the Zs they need.

Sleep is intricately connected to cortisol, an adrenal hormone naturally released in response to stress and low blood glucose.* A 1997 study found that even one night with inadequate sleep can affect the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which controls the body's ability to respond to normal stress.(2)* A night spent tossing and turning also leads to a natural increase in glucocortisoids, including cortisol, which are linked to metabolism and cognition.*

Mood While not every kid is going to jump for joy when it's time to head off to school, supporting a healthy mood can allow more space within the mind to focus on academics.* Children normally experience frequent changes in mood, but they often lack the vocabulary to explain how they're feeling. As parents, we can empathize, then ask questions to identify the emotion and help them find healthy ways to boost their mood. The GaiaKids® line, formulated by naturopathic physician Dr. Mary Bove, contains several products designed to support a healthy mood.*

Exercise Moving the body regularly is a great way to burn off steam, especially for little ones with seemingly endless energy reserves. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that children and teens do at least 60 minutes per day.(3) Exercise naturally releases feel-good hormones and helps promote the body's healthy response to stress, so get the whole family up and at 'em.* Take a walk, hike through a neighborhood park or strap on your helmets and go for a bike ride.

Stress Children might not know what stress is, but they do experience it. According to the American Psychological Association, signs of occasional stress in kids could be trips to the school nurse, changes in behavior or simply not wanting to go to school.(4) They use words that are within their vocabulary: worried, angry, annoyed or confused. Knowing the signs can assist parents in finding helpful strategies. The APA recommends being available, active listening and responding thoughtfully, without arguing or minimizing their opinions and feelings. Good nutrition, regular exercise and adequate sleep also help the body respond to stress naturally.*

Hydration According to Harvard researchers, more than half of US teens and children are not adequately hydrated-and about 25% reported drinking no plain water throughout the day.(5) Drinking enough water is important for all bodily systems and functions, particularly metabolism and digestion, circulation and temperature regulation; even mild dehydration can impact mood, cognition and physical wellness.* Encourage your little ones to drink water before reaching for a snack (thirst is often mistaken for hunger) and remind them often to drink plain water to instill that healthy habit at an early age. A small, colorful stainless steel water bottle that's just for them is one way to make drinking water more fun.

Selected Sources:
(1) (2) Sleep. 1997 Oct;20(10):865-70. (3) (4) (5)