“Eat junk food and watch Gray’s Anatomy for 2 hours,” my nerdy Asian kid replied when I asked her what her strategies are for coping with exam stress.

We are currently in the IGCSE exam season and Georgina definitely has a lot on, not only in terms of her studies but also her heavy sporting commitments. She plays football at a very high level and cannot afford to slack off as she is playing in an important tournament in Portugal in less than two months’ time. It is business as usual on the football pitch.

“I’m training kids to be professionals who can earn a living from playing football,” her football coach says pointedly to parents like myself who whinge about his four days a week training regime during the exam time. Surely those poor dears should be in their comfortable homes studying instead of running around in the hot sun chasing a ball?

“Exams are just exams and life goes on,” her father agrees with the coach.

But I am 75% Asian, OK? Exams are a big deal. It is a cast-iron belief that is woven into the Asian genes, like it or not. You’re screwed for life if you don’t come home with a brace of As.

But I was surprised, nonetheless, by Georgina’s response. She is normally extremely disciplined and controlled, so what is this with junk food and mindless television for two hours?

There are healthy options available in our house and we live by the beach. So why stuff your face with junk food and hole yourself up in your room wasting time watching mindless TV (which she never does), instead of eating a homemade energy bar, swim in the sea and get down to work?

She shrugged. “I give myself two hours. And then I take out my school books.”

She does know what she is doing and what she needs to do. The walls in her bedroom are covered with Post-Its.

Screen Shot 2016-04-28 at 10.29.44

And as a testament to the saying that we know our own body best, there is a reason for Georgina’s out-of-character behaviour. Yesterday, I read that Dr Sandi Mann, a researcher from the University of Central Lancashire, and colleagues presented their findings to the British Psychological Society conference in Nottingham which showed that when we are bored, our dopamine level drops and we compensate for this drop in other ways, namely by eating fatty and sugary foods. You can read the short article, Bored People Reach For The Chips, by clicking on this link.

“Bored people do not eat nuts,” Dr Mann said. My goodness, so true! Georgina who loves nuts shuns them when she comes home from school after a long day and still has a couple of hours of studying ahead of her. Bring on the McVities and crisps.

And interestingly enough, in a separate study, Dr Mann found that boredom can make us more creative. She suggests that boredom can have positive results including an increase in creativity because it gives us time to daydream. Hmmm, television soaps do have their worth after all.

Note to self: my child knows her body and mind better than I do. It is the innate wisdom called Mahad that I wrote about in my parenting book.


First published in