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Exam Stress

Taking the Stress out of Finals Week

Finals week can be a time of great anticipation as well as a tremendous anxiety. While students look forward to completing a long semester, they also worry about acing final exams and finishing final papers. Let’s face it: there is a lot riding on finals week. It’s only natural that many college and high school students experience a lot of stress during this time.

“Mild stress, often called ‘good stress,’ can be quite beneficial,” said Patton V. Nickell, MD, chairperson, Department of Psychiatry, West Penn Allegheny Health System. “Good stress can help students stay focused on the task at hand and perform more efficiently. However, it is when stress becomes severe or chronic that it can cause a host of physical and mental problems. That’s when it is important to take control of stress.”

Here are some tips for reducing stress during finals week:

  • Get an early start on studying for exams and writing papers. Create an action plan for how you will prepare for finals week and break down your action plan into manageable steps. Then set deadlines for accomplishing each task. Studies have shown that students who space out their work ahead of time perform better. Also, by managing your time, you can avoid the stress of having to pull an all-nighter to meet your deadline.
  • Find a quiet place to study or work on a class project. Nothing can amp up the stress level more than loud noise and unwanted distractions.
  • Make sure you get enough sleep during finals week. When you are well rested, you will think clearer and perform better.
  • Avoid too much caffeine and eat healthy foods. Proper nutrition gives your mind the energy to perform at peak efficiency.
  • Take frequent breaks. Head to the gym for a light workout, take a walk across campus or listen to some music. Your mind and body need some time to recharge.
  • Get help. If you are having difficulty understanding a topic, your professor will be glad to provide a more in-depth explanation. (But remember to make an appointment well ahead of time)
  • Jot down the dates, times and locations for final exams, as well as deadlines for final papers and projects. With so much on your mind, it’s easy to lose track of your agenda once finals week rolls around.

Think positive! You’ve worked hard all semester and will do great!

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