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Final challenge: conquer finals stress

December 6, 2012

UW-River Falls’ final exam schedule begins on Monday, Dec. 17, and the stress is already making its way to students.

“I feel like finals is one of those great unknowns,” said Mark Huttemier, a personal counselor at the Student Heath and Counseling office. “It creates a lot of anxiety.”
Huttemier said, particularly during finals week, students have a lot on their minds, which can bring concern and then lead to stress and anxiety. Some thoughts students may have going into finals week are how much they should study, what they should study, when they should start studying and how excited they are to go home for break once their finals are over.

Stress can be a difficult thing to conquer during a week like finals week, and taking time for yourself is important.

For senior and secondary education major Jared Ley, running is a great way for him to relieve stress.

“I’ve taken up running,” Ley said. “When you are running with someone else it takes your mind off what you have to do and it’s actually more of a break.”

Huttemier agreed and also recommended exercising to relieve stress due to finals. He said exercising four times a week for about a half hour each day will create endorphins so that you feel better in general. You feel that you look better and you will detox your body by getting cortisol out of your system, which is a stress hormone.

If exercising isn’t something a student is interested in, Huttemier also recommended stretching your muscles for 30 minutes at a time, or progressive relaxation exercises, which will also give you the same feeling as exercising would.

According to a news release from Harris Health System, it’s also recommended that college-aged students get between eight to nine hours of sleep per night particularly before final exams. However, with the busy schedule some college students have, getting that much sleep is almost unheard of.

“I probably get about six hours of sleep,” said Jennifer Buening, a sophomore biology major. “Some times three due to studying.”

She admits that during finals week she aims for at least five hours of sleep a night because she knows getting less than that would make it impossible.

“Having a good amount of sleep is better than studying when you’re tired,” Huttemier said.
For college students it can be difficult balancing sleep and studying, especially when students are not always feeling motivated to study. Feeling unmotivated to study can take away a student’s time to sleep because they can feel as if they should stay up late studying to make up for the time they lost.

“Don’t have expectations on how much sleep you are going to get,” Huttemier said. “That can cause stress as well.”

For those having difficulties trying to sleep, Huttemier said to make sure to keep a pattern of going to sleep at the same time every night. He also recommends taking a shower before you go to sleep as well.

“Start your routine a half an hour before you go to bed and include a shower,” he said. “The effect of warming your body in the shower and cooling it when you get out can get your body relaxed for sleep.”

Ley admits that in an average school week he gets between six to seven hours of sleep and around finals he gets about six hours of sleep as well. He said it all depends on what he has to do that day, but no matter how much work he has to do, pulling an all-nighter is out of the question.

“It’s actually one of my goals as an undergraduate student to not pull an all-nighter,” Ley said. “Getting sleep and studying less is more beneficial than getting no sleep and studying more in my opinion.”

Buening admitted to having pulled an all-nighter before studying for tests and said she wouldn’t recommend it.

“I almost fell asleep through them,” Buening said. “It was hard to stay awake.”

Huttemier backed up Ley’s and Buening’s statements by saying while studying when you’re tired, you aren’t as focused on the information you are reviewing. He also said that a lot of the times the stress from finals comes from the tests themselves, which is also referred to as test anxiety.

Prepping for finals week can be a challenge because you have more than one class and more than one test. However, Huttemier said that the worst thing to do in his opinion is to study when you just aren’t focused on it.

“You’ll know when your body is ready to study,” Huttemier said.

According to the Harris Health System news release, it recommends that studying during the brain’s optimal function will make studying more worthwhile. The news release suggests that between the hours of 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. is the best time to study.

Huttemier agreed and said that between the hours of 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. are also good times to study for your brain’s optimal function. However, he also added that those times of day are not something to rely on because everyone is different. Listening to your body and figuring out when it’s ready to study will make preparing for finals more effective.

Ley said he would be spending approximately 58 hours the week prior to finals week studying and another 48 hours during finals week. His best advice is to spend time studying bits of information over a few weeks rather than trying to cram it all in.
Rewarding yourself after studying is also a good way to keep you motivated. Treating yourself to some down time with friends or something else you enjoy doing after you’ve spent time studying will re-energize you to continue studying.

Buening said she rewards herself with spending a few hours hanging out with friends and making sure she takes a break to eat something.

“It’s OK to drop everything and go out and do something that is fun for a bit,” said Huttemier.