Every student experiences the same thing on some level—the heart-pounding sensation that creeps up as you wonder, “Did I study enough for my biology exam?” While it’s impossible to avoid all stress, learning how to handle it in a healthy way makes this time of year much easier. Christopher Johnston, director of counseling and health services at CUC, helped us out with these tips:
- Avoid marathon study sessions. “Don’t try and study for extended periods of time. Short study periods with frequent breaks promote better retention,” Johnston says. Cramming can lead to anxiety and burnout, and you’ll run the risk of drawing a blank on the day of the big exam. “The same is true for end-of-semester projects. Take frequent breaks and come back to the project with renewed enthusiasm.”
- Catch those Zs. It might seem impressive to tell your friends you pulled an all-nighter while prepping for finals, but that loss of sleep could just make you more stressed out (and less able to deal with it). “There is always a temptation to exchange study time for sleep. Fight that temptation,” Johnston says. “Sleep is essential for maintaining the mental focus and maximizing recall; which you will need if you want to ace your finals. Get at least eight hours before the big tests.”
- Drink lots of water; eat healthy foods. It’s a quick fix to gulp down an energy drink or grab whatever junk food you can find in the vending machine, but carry a water bottle and plan ahead where and when you’re going to have your meals—that way you won’t have to scrounge for snacks at odd hours. “Stay hydrated, don’t over-caffeinate, and remember to eat a healthy, balanced diet. That will provide you the fuel you need to accomplish your goals while at the same time, effectively manage stress,” says Johnston.
- Get your body moving. Whether you have a routine at the Fitness Center, play volleyball or Frisbee on the Triangle, or take a long walk in the fresh air on a nice day, exercise is a great way to manage stress. “It gets your blood flowing, brings oxygen to your brain and increases endorphins. If you have a regular exercise plan, stick with it through finals,” says Johnston.
Stress really getting to you? You’re definitely not alone. The Counseling Center is a free resource available to students throughout their time at Concordia-Chicago. Check out their website to find mental health resources and emergency/crisis information. You can also email Counseling.Services@CUChicago.edu with any questions, concerns or requests for support.