With finals week just around the corner, students prepare to pull all-nighters, camp in the library, abandon all nonacademic activities, and ignore the entire concept of self-care. Unfortunately, all of those things are not only unhealthy, but also detrimental to the exam-taking process. With that in mind, Health & Wellness shared some advice on how to cope with stress during the end of the semester.
“I think there’s a lot of pressure to succeed when it comes to finals,” Shannon Seiferth, a wellness educator/counselor at Health & Wellness, said. “It’s a small timeframe, and [the students] feel like they need to cram in all of the studying, all that information… all of the focus goes to that, so they don’t give as much time to have fun, or take care of themselves and really do the things that make them feel good… I think that adds to a lot of stress, not doing our everyday stress relievers that are so important during that time.”
One of the most important things in coping with stress is allocating time to relax; Seiferth recommended starting early and having a plan for the day to make sure students find time to relax.
“The number one recommendation for students would be to build in breaks,” she said. “The most important thing you could do is to truly take a break from studying to do literally anything else: go for a walk, stretch your body, move around, have fun, watch a funny video, laugh with someone. Even if you’re studying for a while, study for 50 minutes, break for 10.”
Even if an all-nighter appears to be the best way to prepare for an exam, those should be avoided, according to Seiferth. Getting enough sleep is crucial for better performance during finals.
“Don’t skip on the sleep. People who sleep actually perform better on exam than those who are sleep deprived,” Seiferth said. “Avoid the all-nighters if at all possible. Our concentration, our attention, our memory are all improved with sleep.”
Another strategy Seiferth offered to lower stress during the exam period was to stop viewing exams as something scary and start seeing them as a challenge.
“Students can focus on their mindset. Are they seeing an exam as something they dread, or as a challenge, as something to prepare for? Visualizing a positive exam experience can be really helpful, as well as talking kindly to yourself, reminding yourself that you’ve been preparing for this,” she said.
Noticing stress in peers is as important as noticing it in oneself, according to Seiferth. Neglecting food, sleep or usual hobbies are the biggest indicators of high stress levels.
“Not continuing their regular self-care routines is the biggest sign,” she said. “Things students traditionally make time for and are not making time for because they are overwhelmed might be a sign they’re dealing with stress.”
Knowing the signs of emotional or mental struggle can help students and help friends get through the exams. Seiferth recommended encouraging friends to take breaks, such us taking them out for a walk or a coffee. Encouraging self-care is one of the biggest things students can do for their friends.
“Being able to role model those positive things you’re doing for yourself is the best way you can help friends,” Seiferth said. “Being able to remind your friends that they’re more than their grades, reminding them that they’ve done a lot to prepare and that they’ve done a lot of hard work.”
Health & Wellness is organizing multiple events during finals week to help students to manage stress called “Frazzle-Free Finals.” Seiferth said that on May 7 from 2 to 4 p.m. in the Dimond Library, wellness ambassadors will be setting up tables for breaks and offering students water.
The same event will take place in the Engineering, Mathematics and Computer Science Library in Kingsbury Hall on May 7 from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. On May 8, wellness ambassadors will be handing out popsicles by Thompson Hall, and there will be a “relaxation station” in the Dimond Library the same day from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Although the list of activities has not been finalized yet, some examples are coloring, meditation, stress balls, and an “affirmation station” with positive Post-It Notes.
In addition to the events mentioned above, Dimond Library offers additional events during finals week as well; traditional therapy animals and the primal scream being just a couple of them, a more will be announced in the upcoming days.