Sarah Graham, Chattanooga, Tenn. – Stress seems to be a constant state of being for most college students, and it escalates tenfold during finals week each year.
For overachievers and procrastinators alike, the end of the semester brings a rollercoaster of joy and agony as multiple deadlines and exams stand between them and their next break.
As April 27 looms above campus, the effect of stress on health and work quality cannot be ignored.
Fortunately, the university offers many events and opportunities during finals week to help its students perform as well as possible and come out the other side practically unscathed.
“I’ve been stressed out to the point that my brain just couldn’t process information anymore,” said Kelsi Bush, sophomore Psychology major. “Every question I looked at or paper I tried to write came up blank because I mentally couldn’t function any longer.”
Does this sound familiar? Bush’s problem is one that will resonate with many, as most students have pushed themselves to the brink of what often feels like insanity in the pursuit of the best results possible.
Stress is not an inherently bad thing; in fact, the right amount of stress can act as an excellent motivator. However, when someone is under so much stress that they’re no longer productive, it’s time to address and cope with their stress triggers. These are anything that habitually cause damaging anxiety and stress.
Common stress triggers for college students include disorganization, an overly full work load, social pressures and procrastination. All of these, combined with poor sleeping and eating habits, creates a cocktail of mental and physical consequences that reflect in students’ performance during finals, including insomnia, headaches, mental blocks, anxiety and illness.
Once the triggers have been identified, steps can be made to correct them. Get organized, make a detailed study plan and collect the proper resources, find a calm place to focus as well as to escape, it’s important to take breaks to rest one’s body and brain. Luckily, UTC has great resources for all of these things and they’re all easily accessible for students.
Approaching finals week, on April 21, the Counseling Center is offering a “Stress Fair,” where ways to manage stress will be taught and free massages will be offered. Along with this special event, the Counseling Center is open on weekdays from 9 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. for walk-ins and from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. for scheduled appointments.
The library also hosts a bevy of events. Last fall they had extended hours and services, there were cartoons and snacks, visits from therapy dogs and late-night study marathons with complementary food and coffee. These events are proof that UTC cares for the mental wellbeing of students as well as their test scores, while the campus itself provides for their physical health.
As anyone with an ENO hammock or a beach towel can tell you, campus’ trees and grassy hills provide the perfect outdoor meditation locations, letting students soak up plenty of Vitamin D when the weather is nice.
Meanwhile, the nearby trails in Chattanooga’s beautiful mountains lets students work out their bodies and give their brains a break.
These hiking trails are a particular favorite of Bush, saying “I like to take my dog out and just explore, it’s the perfect opportunity to focus on something other than my upcoming deadlines and when I get back to work I’m refreshed and ready to tackle anything!”
Above all, confront everything with mindfulness and a plan. A detailed plan, one that takes into accounts breaks, eating and sleeping alongside studying will set up a successful finals week.
During these breaks, take advantage of all the great events and environments UTC has to offer. Make a plan, breathe, and start counting down the days until summer vacation.