The arrival of spring brings with it April showers as well as the end of the semester. Students are not only preparing for warmer weather, but also for finals week, which takes place before they are free to enjoy their summers.With the unpleasant winter that West Chester students dealt with this past year, the thought of summer is racing through their minds, causing them to lose focus on preparing for their final exams. These happy thoughts of sunny days at the beach will soon fade away, however, as students realize that finals are only a week away, and their stress levels will begin to soar.
Most of the stress-related problems students suffer from are related to performance troubles, heightened academic demands and pressure to perform well in order to make a good grade. This simply means that students will become more anxious and stressed out because there is a greater emphasis put on a final exam. A class final can be worth as much as 50 percent of a student’s grade and can determine whether the student passes or fails a class. This is definitely enough reason for a student to worry.
The most common problem students have is that they procrastinate during the semester. Students will put off their work and wait until the last minute to do it. As soon as finals week creeps up on them, the students must face the consequences, as they now have to study for final exams, do end-of-class projects and their unfinished work, all at the same time.
One of the best ways to avoid stress at the end of the semester is to keep up with assignments and not save weeks worth of work for the end of classes. Of course, sometimes it is too late for students to follow this advice, so they must find other ways to manage their stress.
With all of the studying that needs to be done, students should try to keep their daily routines in check. Focusing solely on work for a long period of time can decrease concentration, resulting in wasted time. Maintaining balance in terms of social and recreational activities along with exercise can provide stress relief. There have been hundreds of studies demonstrating that regular exercise is effective in reducing stress. Exercise actually pumps stress-busting endorphins into the bloodstream and provides a physical response that meets the body’s need to act on the stress response.
It is important to sleep as you would normally, without testing a new sleep-study cycle in hopes of doing better on exams. Chances are that your body won’t adjust to the new pattern in time and you will be taking exams when you’re not at your best. Some students drink tons of coffee to pull all-nighters. This can be harmful because too much caffeine and lack of sleep cause blurred thinking and concentration.
During stressful times, students should also try to avoid falling into bad nutritional habits. The comfort that food provides leads to endorphins being released, thus promoting overeating. Eating comfort foods that are usually high in fat, sugar and low in fiber tends to give off a feeling of euphoria, along with temporary pain relief. Students should try to eat three meals throughout the day and have a few healthy snacks. If it is impossible to avoid the hunger pangs while studying, try to eat something good for you such as fruit, nuts or yogurt. Stress-related food cravings are often related to cookies, pizza, burgers, fries and ice cream. Beware of these because consuming too much of them can lead to even more stress.
Students can also keep stress down by focusing on doing the best they can rather than insisting on perfection. Too many students feel that they must be perfect at everything. They think that if they don’t ace every single test or assignment it is the end of the world. Perfectionists should realize that no one is perfect at everything; it is the effort that counts.
Dr. Jeff Harris, a WCU professor, suggests that students try various relaxation techniques in stressful situations. Some of these include belly breathing, yoga, meditation, visualization, and massages. Jason Edelman, a student in Harris’ stress management class, knows firsthand the power of these methods. “I have been under a lot of pressure with graduation, and we tried visualization in class one day. It really worked. After 20 minutes, I felt so relaxed and calm,” said Edelman.
When all else fails, remember that laughter is the best medicine. Laughing relaxes muscles, lowers blood pressure and eases mental tension. Finals may be your priority right now, but think ahead to summer vacation and your stress will melt away.