Getting through the back-to-school blues

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
The summer holidays are over and the kids are back at school. Most adults can look back on their school days as the best days of their lives. Most teenagers, however, don't feel that way.

Here are a few recommendations to make this your best year yet.

Try to get to sleep before 10pm to allow for a full night's sleep. A dark bedroom will help the body to manufacture melatonin more efficiently. Teenagers are more prone to viruses such as glandular fever, which can lead to a lot of time off school and sport, and can affect some people long-term. 

Eating a varied, balanced diet with lots of seasonal produce, getting plenty of exercise, sleep and rest will help to support a healthy immune system.

Spending time outdoors during summer is also important for manufacturing vitamin D, which will support the immune system and a healthy mood.

A weekly planner can be useful for helping to organise each week. Include snacks, meals, extra-curricular activities, exercise and social activities. Being organised can reduce anxiety, which may affect sleep latency.

A good habit to get into is charging your phone overnight in another room. This removes the temptation to play on it. The blue light emitted from a smartphone affects the pineal gland, a gland located behind the eyes which is responsible for manufacturing melatonin, the hormone responsible for sleep and repair.

It is advisable to go back to using an alarm clock and setting it up across the room, as far from your bed as possible. This forces you to rise from bed and engage your body in movement.

Motion creates energy, so when you get up and out of bed it naturally helps you to wake up. If you can allow yourself some extra time in the morning to get ready and eat a good breakfast, this will help to set you up for the day.

Eggs are a brilliant breakfast option as they contain protein for growing muscles and to keep you feeling full for longer. Eggs also contain choline, which is great for brain function and helps to reduce feelings of anxiety.

A good alternative to eggs is a smoothie with protein added. Teenagers have a lot of physical, mental and emotional demands on their bodies, so a nourishing start helps to support this.

A good basic smoothie recipe is: 1 cup liquid (coconut water, coconut milk, almond milk or water), ˝ cup frozen fruit (banana and berries), 1 handful baby spinach leaves, 1 scoop Balance plant protein powder.

Add ingredients to the blender and process until smooth then pour into a tall glass to serve.

To save time later, rinse the blender immediately and then add water and some dishwashing liquid and pulse until clean, rinse then leave to dry.

Oily fish is rich in EPA and DHA, which helps to reduce depression and anxiety and can improve skin health. Good examples are sea-run salmon and sardines. Aim for two to three meals per week. Zinc is important for skin health - beef, oysters, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds are good sources.

Raw nuts and avocado are also important for brain function, so about 2 tablespoons of nuts and a sliver of avocado on rice cakes would be a good snack while studying.

Keeping fit, being social, eating well and getting plenty of rest will all contribute to happiness and mental wellbeing.

-By Deanna Copland

-The advice contained in this column is not intended to be a substitute for direct, personalised advice from a health professional.


Choc cherry bliss balls

12 medjool dates, pitted
2 cups shredded coconut
1 cup pitted cherries
⅓ cup raw cacao powder
3 Tbsp coconut oil, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
Extra coconut or cacao for rolling

Add all the ingredients to a food processor and process until well combined and the mixture sticks together.

Roll into small balls and roll in coconut or cacao powder.

Place on a baking tray, lined with baking paper and refrigerate or freeze to set.

A good portion size would be 1-2 per day, perhaps as an after-school snack straight from the freezer.

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