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Getting Ready for Finals

By Julie Hamel

With only a few weeks until the end of the semester, you may find yourself stressed out and anxious about approaching final exams! Whether this is your first semester at college, or your last, anxiety about finals is normal. There are some strategies you can use, however, so that the anxiety and stress don't prevent you from performing at your best when it's time to take that test.

Many students are working so hard towards the end of the semester that they forget to take care of their basic needs! Here are some things you might consider:

Take time for exercise. You may think that studying around the clock will help you to perform better in your classes, but taking time out for exercise may actually help you more in the long run. According to MayoClinic.com exercise has several benefits related to stress
reduction. Physical activity boosts your brain's production of endorphins, the neurotransmitters that make you feel re-energized and enhance your sense of well-being. Exercise also provides a distraction from your worries and irritations because you are forced to concentrate on your body's movement and coordination. Experts says that focusing on single, physical tasks can also help you to develop focus for the other tasks you are faced with, and help you in your ability to stay calm. Finally, regular exercise has been shown to decrease symptoms of mild depression and anxiety, and lead to an increase in self-confidence.

Eat well. Good nutrition is not always a part of every college student's life, but it is an important part of staying healthy and performing at your best. When you are rushed for time, keeping good eating habits becomes difficult. Remember that what you eat DOES affect how you feel and your ability to think and focus! Studies show that skipping breakfast has a negative impact on school achievement. Even if you don't have time for a full breakfast, try to find something that is quick, easy, and healthy like yogurt, oatmeal, bagels, juice, or fruit. Avoid lots of sugar and caffeine in the mornings. You'll feel a quick burst of energy, followed by a letdown that can make you tired, irritable and even lead to headaches and inability to concentrate. If you're putting in long hours studying, keep some healthy snacks on hand like whole wheat crackers, cheese, peanut butter, veggies, un-buttered popcorn and fruit. They won't make up for a full meal, but they'll give you more energy than soda and chips! Don't forget to drink lots of water.

Balance your time. Few of us are good at staying focused for long periods of time. We usually become inefficient if we try to do too much for too long. Make a plan for how you will approach the big project or the final exam. Typically, fifty to ninety minutes of focused work followed by a 10-15 minute break is best for your body and your brain. Let your friends know what your study needs are. If you need quiet time, be assertive and let them know that you won't be able to see them or take phone calls for a certain time, but that you'd be glad to meet for a study break later on! A change of scenery is often good for mental concentration. Try going to the library, a coffee shop, or another distraction-free study space for part of the time. If it's nice weather, some study time in the fresh air can provide a needed mental boost.

Although you may think that all of these suggestions will take away time from your studying, they are actually proven strategies for achieving optimal health and for improving your performance on all of the important things you have to do!

As always, if you experience extreme symptoms of depression or anxiety associated with the end of the semester, please contact Counseling Services at (785) 532-6927.

© All staff articles are used by permission of the respective author(s). Copyright belongs to the University Life Café. No part of this may be used without authorization.

Getting Ready for Finals (pdf)