Her eyes slowly open. She realizes her alarm hasn’t gone off. She flies out of bed with her study guides sliding off her. No time to brush her teeth or eat breakfast as she trips down the stairs and out the door.
Santa Rosa Junior College student Rachel Scutt flees from her house in a panic. With her keys in the ignition, she prays that her little VW cooperates with her as she turns the keys. The motor eventually grumbles to life and soon she merges onto the freeway, flying down the road, hoping there is no police cruiser hiding to pull her over. Embarrassed and exhausted, she approaches her professor for the exam, living a student’s worse nightmare. “The professor was mad I was so late and my classmates were all staring at me like I was crazy,” she said.
Stress is an everyday factor, but the intensity of it seems to triple during the final week accompanying every semester. However, stress doesn’t have to rule our bodies and minds during this time. Here are eight tips to help conquer finals with ease and reduce the effects of stress on the body.
SRJC Nutrition Instructor Jill Tarver said it’s always good to eat natural, unprocessed foods whenever possible. During stressful times and periods of fatigue many students turn to a caffeine fix, which can actually burn a student out. Stick to what you usually eat and make sure to include vitamin and protein rich foods like salmon, nuts, vegetables and blueberries.
Most students find it easier to eat junk food during times of stress. Whether it’s due to convenience or comfort sugary and fatty foods can have a negative effect on the body. Tarver suggests the week before a stressful period, like finals, make sure to go shopping and buy lots of natural foods. Buy healthy snacks such as bananas, apples, carrots and grapes. Also eat meals such as salads instead of those easy but unhealthy fast food meals.
Exercise and stretches:
SRJC kinesiology instructor Andrea Thomas stresses the importance of exercise to relieve stress. Thomas said as the body experiences stress, it goes into fight-or-flight mode which releases energy into the body in the form of sugar. When we don’t use up this energy, it affects the body in a negative way. “Seventy five-90 percent of doctor’s visits are due to stress-related effects and not managing them,” Thomas said.
Thomas encourages students to take breaks from studying and move around. Stretch, do yoga, go for a brisk walk or perform anything you find enjoyable. Getting active not only uses up the sugars being released into our blood stream, but reduces anxiety and increases energy for up to two hours. “Exercise can give you an energy boost and can stimulate new brain cells,” she said. “Twenty minutes of aerobic exercise is shown to improve focus and brain function.”
Make sure to get enough sleep the night before. According to the American Psychological Association, sleep is what allows our brains and bodies to recharge. Our bodies perform tasks such as memory consolidation when we’re sleeping. SRJC student Jason Monroy said, “Sleep, sleep and lots of sleep. You want to feel refreshed and ready to go.”
Thomas advises students to try to get at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night, especially before a test.
If you’re already at school and need to get some sleep, try taking naps between exams in your car.
Memorizing for exams doesn’t have to be difficult. There are little tricks to help anyone remember the most difficult of subjects, such as making up stories in your mind, incorporating all of your senses if possible, making visual links, making up rhymes or trying to create an acronym.
SRJC alumnus Barbara Dequevedo said, “I always had the hardest time remembering what I was studying. I started to make up songs and rhymes to remember lists of terms, and it really worked for me.”
If you are a hands-on learner, try to take notes on flash cards and study from them for an easy way to review on the go.
During finals it’s not an uncommon sight to see animals on campus and students petting them. This is because universities have animals brought in to reduce stress within students and calm nerves during finals. Taking breaks to play with your furry friends will reduce your stress, calm you down and lower your heart rate.
If there are no stress animals offered on your campus, go over to friends’ houses who have pets or even offer to walk the neighbor’s dog.
We’ve heard music helps us study and keep relaxed, and a Monash University study showed, “stress-induced increases were each prevented by exposure to music, and this effect was independent of gender.”
SRJC student Viviana Reyes said, “I like to chill out and listen to music for about 10 minutes and go back to it in intervals.” If you’re starting to feel the stress build up, take a step back and crank up the tunes.
Create fun study playlists of whatever music you enjoy. Classical and instrumental music is proven to be most beneficial to learning.
There’s nothing more motivating than rewards. Tell yourself if you read a certain amount, you will get a treat. Maybe go for a shopping break or watch part of the game you were recording- whatever gets you excited to study.
SRJC alumnus Lindsey Willamson said, “I like to make something yummy before I start studying, like cookies, but I don’t allow myself to eat any until I get at least a chapter of reading done.”
Buy food you love to eat, but don’t eat it all at once. Put the food in another room and finish your studying before digging in.
We’ve all been there. It’s the day before and we’ve yet to even open our textbooks. Procrastinating is one of the biggest contributions to stress levels during exams. SRJC English instructor Chris Cullen said, “Don’t wait until the last minute. Don’t get stressed out. Talk to your teachers in advance, go to office hours, study, get a good night’s sleep and don’t cram the night before.”
Open the books a week before your test is scheduled. Just do it, it’s not going to go away and will only get worse the longer you wait. Always go back and review your notes before the test to absorb as much information as possible.