Breaking exam week stress

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  • Students feeling stressed about final exams can use resources like Student Health Service, the Counseling Center and residence hall directors.
  • The Center for Health Education and Promotion will be hosting a "Stress Free Zone" during exam week.
  • The activities will be held Dec. 8 to 10, from 5 to 7 p.m. on the second floor of the Alumni Memorial Union.
  • Students are also encouraged to stay healthy, manage their time well and take time for themselves.

"Time's up!" says the professor. "Pencils down. Please pass your exams to the front."

Students long to hear those simple words at the end of their last exam next week, signaling the end of finals week and the beginning of a month devoid of studying.

But fighting through the days of stress to reach that point is not so simple.

Amy Melichar, coordinator of the Center for Health Education and Promotion, recommended that students keep their basic health and wellness principles in check as the semester comes to a close. This includes getting adequate sleep, eating healthily and taking time for oneself, she said.

Melichar also advised students to utilize resources like Student Health Service, the Counseling Center and residence hall directors.

Students should try to maintain a manageable level of stress, said Thomas Taft, director of educational development and assessment in the School of Dentistry. Although too much stress can be damaging, having no stress is harmful as well, said Taft, who is also an associate professor of education and dentistry.

"Stress is an activator," Taft said. "It gets people to do things."

In order to manage excess stress, students should break for an activity they normally do for fun, Taft said. He encouraged exercisers to continue working out and music-lovers to keep jamming.

However, Taft warned against extended breaks, which could produce more stress because of the lost time.

"Pick an activity you like, but don't overindulge," Taft said. "You almost need an alarm because 15 minutes could turn into two hours."

Gail Perlick, a lecturer in the College of Communication, emphasized working ahead to avoid stress. She said students should complete their work one piece at a time.

"You can climb the mountain if you do three or four steps a day," Perlick said.

Perlick structures her Journalism 10 class so that students tackle a heavier workload of out-of-class reporting and writing in the beginning of the semester. Later, students have fewer assignments due per week, and they can focus on the extended final project, which takes the place of a final exam.

However, Perlick said Journalism 10 lends itself to that kind of class structure because it teaches students to be outgoing and to build their confidence at the beginning of the course. She said that style might not work as well in other classes.

Charles Wilkie, a professor of chemistry, said keeping up with schoolwork throughout the semester puts students in a good position for final exams.

"We can't lighten the workload," Wilkie said. "If you do the work all semester long, then you'll do fine for finals. If not, then you will be in trouble."

Wilkie's advice for students feeling anxious during a final exam is to try to smile.

"It's hard to be stressed when you smile," Wilkie said.

Elise Chapman, a freshman in the College of Business Administration, said the transition from high school to college has not been too bad. When interviewed before Thanksgiving break, she said she was not stressing yet. That could change as exams approach.

"College finals will be tougher than high school," Chapman said. "I will have to study harder."

Chapman said college will be easier next semester because she now knows what to expect.

Angela Elwing, a senior in the College of Health Sciences, is taking seven classes this semester – totaling 20 credits. She said she is not as stressed for finals week because some of her classes do not have final exams. She also said she is accustomed to the workload by now.

"I'm used to so many classes and having so much to do," said Elwing, a biomedical sciences and Spanish for the professions double major.

During finals week, Elwing said her stress level will likely spike.

"By Friday (of finals week) I'm ready to be done and am completely worn out," Elwing said.

The Center for Health Education and Promotion is offering a "Stress Free Zone" during exam week. The area includes peer health education, healthy snacks and music. Students can also receive hand massages, color and play games, Melichar said.

The "Stress Free Zone" will be offered Dec. 8 to 10 from 5 to 7 p.m. on the second floor of the Alumni Memorial Union.

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