The following is an email that was sent to all students from Dean of Students Anne Hopkins Gross and Provost Al DeCiccio. Finals week can be a little stressful this time of year, but with a little bit of self-care and preparation they don’t need to be so overwhelming.
The end of the semester–and especially Final Exam week–can be the most stressful time of the year for college students. With wanting to be ready for the upcoming holiday season and your GPA dependent on end-of-the-term projects, presentations, and exams, the mere mention of the word “finals” can be enough to bring on stress!
Before you start agonizing over any worst-case scenarios–not passing your Physics final or coming too quickly to the deadline for your English paper–pause and start planning how you can negotiate the last week of classes and final exams, with minimal stress and positive outcomes.
Dean Anne and I want to offer you some helpful hints adapted from our colleagues at Saint Michael’s College: Karen Talentino, Vice President of Academic Affairs, and Mary Masson, Director of Student Health Services.
MEET WITH PROFESSORS. Review course syllabi to ensure that you understand what will be expected on final exams, final presentations, and final projects. If you are missing information, check with a peer from the class and speak with your professor as soon as possible. Your professor will certainly understand what the end of the semester entails. Once you have a clear sense of what is expected, it is easier to determine how much time it will take to be prepared.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF REVIEW SESSIONS AND FACULTY OFFICE HOURS. Even if you don’t have any questions, you may learn something from someone else’s questions. Collaboration is a good way to overcome feeling alone and overwhelmed.
CREATE A DETAILED CALENDAR. In this calendar, include not only exam dates and paper deadlines, but anything else in your life (gift shopping, athletic practice, meetings) that you need time to complete. Even writing it down–and color-coding, if you’re so inclined–will make everything seem more possible. Of course, you should follow through with your schedule! It is perfectly fine to build in some social or relaxation time, but be realistic about how much time you will need to prepare for finals.
GO FOR A RUN OR WALK. Going for even a 20-minute run or walk (preferably outside, because the cool air will wake you up) releases feel-good endorphins that will boost your mood and can help quiet an over-active mind. Try to exercise before you study so that you can hit the books with a clear mind.
CLEAN YOUR DESK (or find a study space in the library or other spot on campus). Sometimes, de-cluttering your space is all you need to de-clutter your mind. Take some time to clear out your desk space completely, and you’ll create a place that allows you to focus on your studying.
TALK IT OUT. Don’t keep your anxiety bottled up inside. Sit down after dinner with friends for a chat. Talk them through your plan for finals week, tell them what’s stressing you out, and ask them for any advice they might have. Often, verbalizing the things that are filling our brains with anxiety–especially in the company of others–robs them of their worry-inducing power.
EAT HEALTHY. Make time for regular meals, and try to eat healthy snacks (fruit, nuts) rather than starchy, salty, and sweet snacks. Your brain will perform better, if your body is healthy.
PERFORM AN ACT OF KINDNESS. Sometimes, doing something nice for another person is the best way to stop thinking about your own problems. If you have a little free time, spend an hour volunteering on campus or in town. A simple act, like folding laundry or getting a snack for a friend, can have a very positive effect.
TAKE A SOCIAL MEDIA BREAK. Spending too much time on Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr when exams are looming can only add to your already-mounting stress levels. Turn off your Facebook email notifications so that you’re not tempted to log on, and if you’re really having trouble, try LeechBlock, a Firefox add-on that blocks time-wasting sites.
LISTEN TO MUSIC. Taking a break to listen to your favorite music before you study can help you relax. (You can also relax by meditating and dancing [Remember what Michelle Dorrance and her friends taught us through tap-dancing!].)
GET ENOUGH SLEEP. A good night’s sleep allows you to confront the day’s stress more easily. When you are tired, you are less patient and easily agitated which can increase stress. Most adults need 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Practicing good sleep hygiene along with the above (and other) stress-lowering strategies can help improve your quality of sleep.
Remember, take good care of yourself and you will be prepared to be the innovative, creative, critical thinkers and problem solvers that your professors and all of us at SVC know you have become.
Now, go ahead and rock the end of the semester and those finals!
Dean Anne and Provost Al