Muzak and massage
By Caroline Greene
Trying to beat exam stress? Healthy eating, proper sleep, exercise and planning are usually the way to go. However, a little music and a lot of rubbing might help too.
An experiment by Frank Brennan, assistant professor of psychology at Wilkes University in Pennsylvania, has revealed that relaxing music may fight illness brought on by stress. Exam stress often leads to exhaustion, irritability, depression, headaches, problems with digestion and suppression of the immune system, Brennan said.
"It is well documented that stress suppresses immune function."
Brennan found stress can reduce the level of secretory immunoglobin A, an important antibody in the immune system. In the experiment, the test group which listened to Muzak exhibited a 14 per cent increase in secretory immunoglobulin A.
"Music can be used as stress relief when people know how to use it," said Lynda Tracy, coordinator of supervision for the music therapy program at Wilfrid Laurier University.
The choice of music to relieve stress depends on the individual but any form can be used, she said. A study in the 1980s revealed music from the Baroque period is particularly effective in relieving stress as the timing generally has 60 beats per minute comparable to an average human heart beat, Tracy said.
For those not musically inclined, physical touch may also play a key role in relieving stress. Massage therapy relaxes the nervous system and increases circulation, said Mary Rubel, a registered massage therapist at the Health Network Centre in London.
Through the medium of touch, a massage therapist creates a passive physical state of relaxation which relieves physical stress but can also reduce mental and emotional stress, Rubel said. "It is a chance to recharge the batteries."
Students will be particularly interested to know that massage therapy is often partially covered under health plans. Western's student health plan reimburses $12 per treatment to a maximum of 20 treatments and $240.
However, there are other factors that remain crucially important for managing stress during exam time. Students should resist grabbing food on the run and attempt to eat a balanced diet, said Cyndy Camp, health education coordinator for Student Health Services at Western. As for hitting the books, Camp advises studying in 50 minute blocks with 10 minute breaks.