For teens and 20-somethings today, stress has become an increasing problem. Preparing for and taking finals can create even more stress with pressure to review, complete projects, and get good grades – too much to do, and not enough time.
A “Stress in America™: Are Teens Adopting Adults’ Stress Habits?” survey was conducted by Harris Interactive Inc., on behalf of American Psychological Association in August 2013. Results among the 1,950 adults and 1,018 teens surveyed in the U.S. suggested that unhealthy behaviors associated with stress may begin manifesting early in our lives. Of the 18-to 33-year-olds surveyed:
- 39% say their stress has increased in the past year
- 52% say stress has kept them awake at night in the past month
- More than any other age group, they report being told by a healthcare provider that they have either depression or an anxiety disorder.
Finals don’t need to lead to stress and stress-related illness if one takes time to relax. Relaxing during finals season can be a strange concept. However, relaxing can not only prevent the negative effects on your body, it can also help improve your study preparations. Here are a few tips for taking time for yourself during your season of finals:
Prepare & Organize throughout the Year
The better you study during the year, keep good notes, maintain your files and binders, the better prepared you will be to tackle finals. If you haven’t done it throughout the year, start organizing what you have now by:
- Creating file folders for each class to contain your notes
- Gathering all past tests and quizzes that might be used for the test, and find correct answers to anything you missed or that on which you are unclear.
Fuel Your Body
Like gas in a car, your body will not “drive” and be best prepared for finals if you don’t properly take care for it.
- Eat regular and healthy meals. Filling your body with junk food can slow you down, and starving it bumps your body into a stress response.
- Get plenty of sleep. Trying an all-nighter throws your body into a stress response. Do your best to keep with your regular (healthy) sleep routine of 7-9 hours per night (or whatever is optimal for you). Sleeping too much or too little can also affect your body long past finals. See how lack of sleep impacts college students.
- Refrain from energy and sleep enhancers. Drinking coffee and caffeinated sodas to keep you awake and taking sleeping pills at night throws off your bodies natural. Save the alcohol for the after finals celebration (of you choose). Alcohol disrupts sleep.
Unless you have found what Psychologist Csikszentmihalyi calls being in the “flow” – enjoying what you are studying so much that time flies by – make sure you schedule and take regular breaks. When you take a break and for how long will depend much on your age, your attention span, your study load, how much you like or struggle with a specific subject, and your personality. For starters, try to study for a full hour with a 15-minute break. Set a timer to make sure to keep you both on task and on break for the time designated. Find a rhythm that works for you.
Studying should not be a 27/4-job. Set aside time for longer “breaks” during your finals preparation season. This can include an hour or a half-day of non-study related activities. Print off and check the below list of break time relaxation strategies ideas below. Which ones would you do in 15-minutes, and which would you consider during an hour or longer break?
BREAK TIME RELAXATION STRATEGIES:
- Move Your Body: Closing yourself off to the outside work or chaining yourself to the library desk will do you no good. Get your body and mind going again by getting up and moving.
- Go for a walk – around campus, with the dog, with a friend
- Play some music and dance around your room
- Do a chore or two such as washing dishes or folding the laundry.
- Go to the gym or do some stretches or exercises in or around the home.
- Challenge Your Mind: Taking mental breaks can recharge your mind.
- Play Sudoku, cross-word puzzle, or solitaire
- Play a video, Wii, X-Box, PS3, or smartphone game
- Review a book of riddles
- Socialize with Others: Let others know you are human. Connect with others for a change of pace.
- Talk on the phone, text, IM chat with, Skype, Face Time, etc. with a friend or family member
- Go to the movies, dinner, or the mall with friends or family members
- Check out Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other forms of Social Media connections
- Tickle Your Funny Bone: Laughter is great medicine for lifting the spirits and relaxing the body.
- Read the funny pages
- Watch a funny movie
- Watch funny YouTube videos
- Change Your Scenery: Get out of your study environment and go exploring.
- Go for a drive – My husband loves to do this!
- Go to the beach or mountains
- Go window shopping at the mall
- Pause and Relax: Slow down the pace by finding an activity that truly allows your body to relax.
- Belly Breathing
- Bubble bath
- Find Pleasure in Small Things: In our fast-paced world, we sometimes miss out on enjoying the simple things in life. Stop and notice them.
- Sipping a warm cup of tea. My guilty pleasure is a Starbucks chai tea latte, yum!
- Watching babies or small children play
- Smelling flowers, lotions, or perfume/cologne
- Tap into Your Creativity: Activating the creative side of your brain may help you better focus on your studying in the long run. You may just find a creative way to accomplish a study problem you had been working on!
- Draw or paint
- Write poetry
- Do arts and crafts
- Ignite Your Senses: Activate different parts of your brain by finding ways to engage all 5 senses.It gives part of your brain a break, while allowing another part to play.
- Taste – Bake something yummy, drink warm tea
- Touch – Fur therapy (pet an animal), squeeze a stress ball, pop bubble wrap
- Sound – Listen to music, the birds, ocean waves
- Sight – Go people watching, glance through Pinterest
- Smell – Flowers, lotions, perfume/cologne, light incense
- Explore Your Emotions: Having strong emotions? Take time to reflect on them and vent to get them out by
- Journaling or Blogging
- Talking to a trusted friend, family members, or life coach
Don’t become a stress statistic. Learn healthy stress-reduction techniques now. Acing the test of preparing for and taking finals could mean the difference between one or two changes in your preparation habits.