College is a time when many students make some of their greatest memories. However, there is one week every semester that students dread: finals week. Finals week tends to be the most stressful time of the year for students.
“Final week does affect stress,” said Andrea Kimura, a health educator at MU. “It’s the combination of the academics and maybe not feeling prepared or having test anxiety. The feeling of having those finals looming can increase stress levels.”
As freshmen, students can find themselves completely overwhelmed by finals week. They often deprive themselves of sleep because they believe that cramming for exams will increase their test scores. However, that is not usually the case. By completely wearing themselves out, students often have a harder time retaining information because our brains need a sufficient amount of resting time. Yet, a walk through Ellis Library at 1 a.m. during finals week will prove that, time and time again, students still choose to wait to study until the last minute.
“The best thing they can do is get plenty of sleep — I know it may sound like an old wives’ tale or word of wisdom from your grandmother, but it’s true,” Kimura said.
Kimura believes that this is one of the best ways to manage stress levels during finals week. She explained that without the appropriate amount of sleep our brains tend to think with limited capacity.
“When we are stressed we use a different part of our brains,” said Kimura. “We operate through the ‘sympathetic side’ of our brains, which is identified through the ‘fight or flight’ response, which is very black and white and not a lot of creativity.”
She explained that with the proper amount of rest, students are able to handle the stressful atmosphere of finals week better. Even just small naps, periodically throughout the day, can be more beneficial than being completely sleep deprived.
Kimura also discussed how important nutrition is during such a demanding time. During finals week, students do not have time to make a home-cooked meal. However, eating an apple for an energy boost can have the same effect as a chocolate bar or other sugary snack, and it is much healthier.
“People seem to forget that when you are sitting at a desk you are still using energy, it’s just in a different capacity,” Kimura said. “It’s like when you are out on the field or you just finished a great workout, you’re going to come in and say, ‘I need to hydrate, or I need to eat something.’ It’s the same thing.”
There are also other ways that students can better manage this demanding time of the year. Things that help decrease stress levels during finals week include avoiding procrastination, managing time wisely and using a study buddy or group. Making a prioritized to-do list and planning timed study breaks can also help students to remain focused during studying.
Although students are relaxing after completing the fall semester finals, we will all be going through it again in May. Just remember, there are ways to help manage stress levels during this time. With plenty of sleep, healthy eating habits and stress management techniques, students can avoid the usual stress that finals week brings and focus on obtaining that 4.0 semester everyone is trying to achieve.