What You Can Do About End-of-semester Stress
The beginning of November is here, which means finals season is nearly upon us. If you are starting to feel the beginnings of end-of-semester stress, you aren’t alone: over 82 percent of students suffer stress and anxiety, 45 percent experience depression, and 1 in 5 students admits to suicidal feelings—and those rates increase drastically as finals week draws close.
If you are dreading the end of the semester, here are a few things you can do to reduce your stress and avoid a full-blown freak-out:
Step Back and Assess
Whether you are in the middle of a finals-related panic attack or you feel like you are on the verge of one, here’s what you need to do: consider your mindset and change it. Most often, students get stressed because they are certain that all their work won’t get done, that they will fail all their classes and that their loved ones will forever be disappointed. In all likelihood, none of these scenarios will happen to you; there are too many parachutes and safety nets in place to keep you on flight to graduation, even when you encounter heavy turbulence.
When you feel overwhelmed by finals, you should pause and recite one of these mantras:
- The work will get done. Finals will be over soon. I will have time to relax.
- I have survived finals before, and I will survive finals again.
- Feeling stressed does not make me a better writer or test-taker. I will not allow stress to impact my grades or my life.
List Your Strengths
There are dozens of fears that bolster your stress during finals season. A good way to fight these fears is to remember the strengths you have to use against them. Right now, before you forget, take a pen to notebook paper and list out your strengths as a student. These might include:
- Problem Solving
Then, you should develop a finals study plan that utilizes these strengths to the extreme. For example, if you do harbor teamwork as a skill, you should try to create study groups for each of your classes. Then, you can assist others (and be assisted by others) in your studies. You are strong enough to survive finals week, especially if you draw on your known strengths.
Use Available Tools
Your school likely offers plenty of tools to help you (and other students) survive finals week. First, you should always feel comfortable contacting your professors for additional clarification on assignments and course materials. You can also reach out to your peers, as mentioned before, to form study groups or else to destress through conversation or activity.
Many schools place an emphasis on offering student success resources. For example, you can find dozens of W&M School of Education student success stories that feature reliance on student counseling programs, career services and more. When you are feeling overwhelmed this season, seek out similar resources at your school and take full advantage of them.
Exercise and Eat Right
Your physical health is as important as your mental health going into finals week. The last thing you want to do is miss a test due to a brutal cold or underperform from a lack of vital nutrients and vitamins. Thus, you need to have a plan for exercising and eating right during the coming weeks.
This isn’t to say that you need to get yoked or lose fat; on the contrary, having physical goals other than maintaining your current weight could be distracting you from studying for finals. However, you should commit to healthy eating – think: plenty of veggies and lean protein – as well as at least 30 minutes of exercise every day. This will keep your body in good shape so your mind can work its magic.
Understand Real Self-care
Self-care isn’t just eating as many cookies as you want and splurging on makeup or video games you don’t need; self-care is building a life you don’t need to escape from. Self-care is allowing yourself to be who you want to be and do what you want to do – while still doing the things you need to do but might not like, such as studying for finals.
So, while you should participate in self-care during finals, i.e., giving yourself breaks to eat satisfying foods and taking calming baths, you should be striving to practice self-care at all other times, too. When you have proper self-care, acute stresses like finals season aren’t as overwhelming and devastating, allowing you to endure them and better yourself (and your grades) without a total meltdown.
About the Author
Michale Ben is a freelance writer and nutritionist from Nevada, who has written on behalf of a range of clients including the Live Strong Network, and Demand Media. In addition to writing about a range of topics, he enjoys playing basketball and cooking in his spare time.