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Exam Stress, Headaches and Solutions

By Dr.Aditya Choudhury

“The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting.” The famous lines of the poem by Walt Whitman, seem to bring out opposite emotions in most of the students, when they approach their exams. It is a well known, scientifically proven fact that stress and anxiety manifest themselves in physical form and the commonest of  such manifestation is headache. The neurologists term it specifically as “tension type headache” or “the anxiety headache”. Sometimes, such headache is severe enough and has overlapping features with migrainous headaches. It coerces one to seek medical attention, in between the exams. Such an event is undesirable both in a normal course of life, and more so when the exams are knocking. One has paucity of time for even the essential daily activities and you  budget your minutes meticulously. To add to the insult to injury of loosing precious time, is the agony associated with such kinds of headaches.

Prevention is better than cure, and this old adage, still holds true, especially in the context of stress induced headaches. What is taken as a flimsy advise, when our teachers ask us to be  consistent, and not piling up the stress for the last moment- is actually a solution. A solution to even out the work stress and enhance our eventual performance. Even if one has missed out on something, or has failed to be consistent, it is always counter-productive if we get anxious about it.  

The best results are from those who keep calm. The adrenaline (a hormone produced in times of stress, along with glucagon, and a few other stress hormones) over production does no good and hinders with our productivity. A racing mind can never think straight  and it even hinders with the recall mechanisms in the brain. The recall mechanism needs to be operative when we write our exams.

The question arises,  what should one do to deal with all this.

Practicing meditation and various relaxation techniques is most useful. Once we use them in times of inevitable stress, which is the time of the school or university exams, it really helps. Proper, timely diet, enough sleep hours and a few minutes of physical exercise also goes a long way in helping the students.

When we see that we are having headaches almost daily, as soon as the day starts, its time to see a doctor. These headaches have a typical character of a band like and sometimes even throbbing in nature. This is when medications need to be administered under the supervision of a doctor, the most commonly being used is amitriptyline. Beta blockers are the other group of drugs, which also helps in allaying anxiety and reducing the racing pulse.

However, for intermittent episodic headaches, occurring at once in a few days, one can use Tab Naxdom (combination of naproxen and domperidone) as an analgesic. This is quite effective in relief of intermittent headaches and can be kept handy for use.

About the Author

Dr.Aditya Choudhury is a Consultant, Neurology at Apollo Gleneagles Hospital Kolkata, having a vast experience of more than 10 years. His qualification MBBS, MD (Medicine) DM(Neurology)-PGI CHANDIGARH, Dip Public Health, MRCP (1)

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