By Ryli Pruitt—
With finals right around the corner, many college students out there are already feeling the pressure.
Whether the focus is on maintaining a certain GPA, studying, work, social lives, family or trying to find the balance between all of it, there is no denying the end of the semester is a difficult time.
We as students often neglect our physical and mental well-being when we are feeling overwhelmed, stressed or unprepared. Dr. Brenda Faulkner, director of student counseling services for Tarleton State University, believes this is why it is important to educate students on how to effectively handle stress.
“The way I see college students handling stress, particularly around finals, is with less sleep, more Red Bull and a poor diet. This only creates a more stressful situation,” Faulkner said.
Making unhealthy choices and neglecting your needs only aids in adding to stress levels, which can lead to more serious issues such as anxiety.
“Eighteen to 19-year-olds are supposed to get nine to 10 hours of sleep a night, which helps the body restore and relax,” Faulkner said. “So, if over the course of two to three weeks you are only getting two to three hours of sleep at a time, then you can see how that can really be pushing your body to the limit and what follows are those stress and anxiety reactions.”
Extreme stress not only can lead to anxiety, but also many other disorders such as high blood pressure, obesity, heart disease and diabetes. That is why it is important to pay attention to what your mind and body are telling you.
Faulkner said that listening to yourself is most important when it comes to preventing stress before it starts or becomes overwhelming.
“Number one, I think we need to pay attention to our circadian clock. We have a natural time when we are at our peak and if we push the envelope beyond that, it’s detrimental,” she said. “You have to be able to know what your limits are.”
A healthy diet, exercise and hydration are all things that also play a huge role in helping us, not only cope with stress but to feel better in general.
Eating well-balanced meals with a surplus of vegetables and proteins, avoiding additives as much as possible, as well as making sure you are drinking enough water are two everyday habits that can help you to remain less stressed.
Marianna Hill, a senior education major, said the most helpful stress management tool is to find out what works best for you.
“If you learn what works for you to manage stress, you can better reduce it,” she said. “I cook, write, read, sing, et cetera.”
Learning how to study is also very important. During finals, Hill has her own technique that helps her stay focused while studying for her tests––or projects and presentations.
“As a senior education major, we don’t have finals per say. We have projects and presentations. But, the way I prepare is by using brain breaks and studying in chunks. So for example, I will study for an hour, then take a five to 10-minute break to reset and then jump back in.”
Finding a support system is another useful tool. Hill says this has personally helped her through her college career.
“When I was a freshman, I refused to discuss anything that was worrying me, and it took me a while to realize that I was more stressed because I couldn’t let any of it out. Now, I have a group of people in the same boat as I am, so when we start to drown, we can grab onto each other,” said Hill.
Even then, there can be times where a new perspective and a little extra help may be wanted and the Student Counseling Services offer just that. Located on Traditions North First Floor, Faulkner says that the counseling services are open to anybody who is feeling the stress and pressure that finals can bring.
“We have plenty of spots available and plenty of clinicians to help them, to where they can just come in and talk about it and see what’s the source of it,” Faulkner said.
The end of the semester can definitely be a demanding time, especially with the thought of summer fresh on everybody’s mind. However, what is most important to remember in the midst of it all is to not let those stressful situations consume you or distract from your goals.
“One of the biggest things I wish I knew as a freshman was that it is okay to be stressed about something, as long as it doesn’t control you,” said Hill. “Life will never go directly as planned and it is human nature to get stressed about it. So instead of getting annoyed and even more mad at ourselves for being stressed—causing more stress, we need to find an appropriate way to channel it into being productive.”