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Dealing with stress during finals

Angel Ulloa
Sophomore finance major Benji Rodriguez studies for his finals at the library.

Finals week is almost here, and several students have begun their efforts toward saving the semester, either because of procrastination or because they are obsessed with turning in perfect work. Whatever the reason may be, this time of the semester is characterized by lots of caffeine, sleep deprivation and stress, which actually are not good in the quest for good grades.

Stress, however, is not always a bad thing.

According to Dr. Sheri I. Terrell, licensed psychologist and director of the University Counseling Center, there is “bad stress” and “good stress.”

“Stress itself is not always bad, it is a natural reaction of your body to get stuff done, and can get you motivated,” Terrell said. “But when you feel so stressed out, when you can’t sleep and can’t get things done, stress is getting in your way, and then is problematic.”

Terrell says that stress is a natural reaction that can make a student efficient and focused when completing tasks.

Manage your stress effectively

In order to help students, the UCC director shares some recommendations to manage stress and keep it from interfering in a negative manner with grades.

At the top of the list, the UCC recommends to manage time effectively. Usage of an agenda, scheduling projects, due dates and even a daily planner that lists study and leisure time, always giving priority to complete the most important stuff first.

“Since the beginning of the semester, start working in your planner and attach to it,” Terrell said. “Only use one single planner, where you manage time for school, work and family instead of having one planner for each.”

Secondly, the UCC recommends taking a small break to reduce stress. Between the tasks you list to be completed during the day, schedule several small breaks for activities such as stretching, calling a friend or going for a walk.

Eat healthy food and get some exercise. Avoid eating foods high in fat, sugar or sodium that can lower your energy. Instead, pack healthy snacks instead. This way you can keep your energy up throughout the day.

Exercise is also recommended–it releases endorphins and gives you a natural boost of energy.

When stressed, students can experience worry and anxiety. Some people may look to reduce these symptoms through the consumption of alcohol or drugs. The UCC recommends avoiding the use of drugs or alcohol to cope with stress.

“These substances will only mask the symptoms of stress, reduce our efficiency and after their effect, stress will come back,” Terrell said.

These tips can be applied since the beginning of the semester, and it is recommended they be applied as early as possible. The more a student repeats these actions, the more easily they become a habit for good.

Unfortunately, we are not at the beginning of the semester and there may not be enough time right now to make all these modifications.

In the worst case scenario

If something occurred during the semester, something that made us go off the track, either procrastination of just a life happening, do not panic. There is still a chance.

“It’s not a catastrophe. Stress is more about how we feel about our own stress and how we handle it. The main difference between anxiety and excitement is what we tell to ourselves,” Terrell said.

She emphasizes that a positive attitude is a key factor when dealing with stress. Keeping a positive attitude toward the situation can help to better handle stress and keep you moving forward to accomplish goals. On the other hand, if we see the situation as the end of the world, we would just be more overwhelmed.

Terrell also advises students to  “not hesitate to look for help, don’t wait to the last minute and use your resources.” There are plenty of resources that can help a student excel during their college life, especially when they are having trouble in a particular class.

The University Counseling Center, tutoring, talking to professors, asking the teaching assistant for any sort of help, are among many ways in which a student can seek help during this stressful time.

From Terrell’s perspective, finals are the best time of the semester to assess oneself.

“Sit and talk to yourself, being realistic and honest. What have you done right? What could I improve?” she said. “It is a reality check.”

Finally, Terrell advises students to think about the big picture. It can help students work on those aspects that are not showing positive results and causing stress and modify them for future semesters. It is also important to assess how much time a student  invests in professional preparation, because in the end that is what college is all about, a student’s  biggest investment is time.

Valeria Terrazas may be reached at [email protected].

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Dealing with stress during finals