By Dylan Aycock
With the end of the spring semester in sight, students start to experience high anxiety and increased stress levels as the weight of final exams and projects bear down on them.
The end of the semester means 10-page research papers, final reports and late-night study sessions at the library. During this time, students are left to develop their own coping mechanisms for overcoming end-of-the-semester stress.
Catherine Crooks, professor of psychology, explained that while stress is a natural state the body experiences, it is crucial for students to find a healthy balance between school and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Students should not be too stressed to function but should have enough pressure to stay motivated, she said.
“It’s not about getting rid of the stress,” Crooks said. “It’s all about finding the proper coping mechanisms that work for you.”
An easy way to de-stress can be as simple as practicing breathing exercises or attending a class at the Campus Recreation Center, according to Crooks.
“It doesn’t have to be a major life change,” she said, “just something to get the adrenaline out.”
Other than deep breathing, Crooks suggested methods such as meditation and guided imagery as a coping mechanism to calm nerves while writing a paper or before taking a major test.
Chris Firebaugh, a freshman music industry major, said he often experiences a lack of creativity when stressed and uses a simple strategy to move past it.
“When things become stressful, I think about a time when things were less stressful and go through the senses to release some of the anxiety,” Firebaugh said. “Other than that, I use breathing exercises.”
Lisa Schrader, director of health promotion, said she observes students using exercise as a positive way to relieve stress. The university’s rec center offers classes such as yoga and Tai Chi, both aimed at decreasing mental, physical and emotional tension.
Meditation and deep breathing are also effective strategies, particularly when test anxiety sets in, to center thoughts and calm the nervous system to manage short-term stress, Schrader said.
Although it’s vital to avoid procrastination, Schrader mentioned it’s important to take study breaks by engaging in hobbies, relaxing outdoors and by talking with friends in a way that is both social and healthy.
“I’ll see students out relaxing in hammocks or reading while outside enjoying nature and taking in the positive vibes from the sunshine and fresh air,” she said. “It’s also helpful for students to be around friends to vent about the stress we are all experiencing.”
Patrick Wesley, a sophomore criminal justice major, always sets aside time to socialize with friends after a stressful week of school.
“I go to a coffee shop with my friends every Friday, so that relieves some of the worries,” Wesley said.
Make A Plan
Carolyn Jackson, a counselor at the university, claims one of the best ways to reduce stress is to make a schedule by organizing due dates and setting aside time for both studying and recreation.
“I think it’s important for students to take each day one day at a time and to set short-term goals in an effort to achieve long-term goals,” Jackson said. “Students seem to underestimate the importance of a good sleep schedule and healthy eating habits during the last few weeks of the semester.”
Reach out for help
Another way for students to manage stress can be as simple as asking a professor for help, Jackson said. However, she stressed that students should seek help in a timely manner, preferably not the day before an assignment is due.
“If a student is struggling with something, professors are almost always willing to help,” she said. “Just don’t make your emergency their emergency.”
Desiree Adams, a junior accounting major, said that she communicates regularly with her professors so that she knows exactly when and what assignments are due. She also suggested visiting professors during their office hours for extra help.
English professor Randy Mackin said that reaching out to professors and instructors displays a sense of student responsibility.
“I think what gets students into trouble more than anything is putting things off until the end,” Mackin said. “Once assignments pile up, there’s almost no way to avoid [stress]. If students are up to date on assignments, the end will be a lot easier.”
As for the remainder of the semester, the university’s Health Promotion will be distributing “Finals Relief Kits” to students. These kits contain information on stress management, as well as stress reducing items such as hot tea, candles and bubble wrap.
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