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Tips for Managing Finals Week Stress


by Michael French


College can be a stressful endeavor, and all the work required by a full class load, it can be challenging to keep it all straight.  Add in the stress that comes from the home, work and trying to maintain a personal life and it gets even worse.  St Petersburg College is a commuter school; nobody has the luxury of living on campus and must find ways to make ends meet.  Don’t fret; there is hope and help to get through these chaotic times in our lives.  Here are some easy and convenient tips to managing the stress in our lives.

Try taking frequent breaks throughout the day.  Psychology teacher Ms. Sara Brzezinski suggests taking 10-15 minute breaks several times a day; it helps to calm and restore the body.  Ms. Brzezinski also described a technique called ‘diaphragmatic breathing’ as a good stress-relieving tool.  To try it, just breathe through the abdomen instead of the chest: sit or lie down wearing loose fitting clothing, put a hand on your stomach and chest, breath in slowly through your nose, and exhale through pursed lips.  She also suggested practicing diaphragmatic breathing when not in highly stressful situations to make them as efficient and effective as possible.

Time management is another strategy to optimize your productive work hours.  Angela Zombrek, teacher of Social Sciences, is also working on her dissertation for the University of Florida as well as teaching 5 classes here at SPC.  She says that good time management is the key to her success.

“I know what I can get done in an hour.  I plan out my school work so I can get everything done.”

Try setting up a schedule for yourself, divvy up your time between your classes into one to two hour blocks to maximize efficiency.  During these times, try to avoid distractions like cell phones and social networking.  Save those for the breaks you’ll be taking between blocks to refresh you.  Using a day planner is an easy and convenient way to keep up-to-date on assignments and tasks.  SPC actually offers a free day planner to all students, which you can get in the administration buildings of all campuses.  During your scheduled work periods, work on one project at a time and make sure not to multi-task. Multi-tasking has shown a decrease in productivity and routine multi-tasking may lead to difficulty concentrating and maintaining focus when needed, according to a Psychology Today.

Time management during exam week is an essential skill to learn.  Theresa, a student looking to get into the dental hygiene program here at SPC, says that during exam week, it’s crunch time- besides going to work and school, she only leaves the house for emergencies.  She likened it to Defcon 1.  During exam week, however, it’s VERY important to remember not to cram because it’s counter-productive to try and memorize everything the night before.  Breaking things up into smaller-to-swallow pieces is the best way to succeed, and according to professor Zombrek, “Don’t try to stay up the night before a test and try to memorize everything.  You will fail.”

Learn to say no.  It would be impossible to go to school, go to work, take care of the household, and go out with friends any time they asked.  As a student, there are going to be a lot of times where you just don’t have the time to go out because the paper that’s due next week needs to be started.  If every time a friend calls and you never say no, you’re going to wind up starting every paper or assignment at the last second.  It’s okay to go out and have fun when your time and work necessities allow for it, but there has to be restraint and that can be difficult for young college students.

Having good social support structure ties in heavily with being able to say no.  Having a group of friends that tries to constantly bring you out instead of letting you study might not be the best group of friends to keep around.  If friends are consistently trying to use peer pressure it can be hard to turn them down, but the work load isn’t going away.

With everything going on in students’ lives, sleep is something that can fall by the wayside.  The consensus, generally, has been to strive for at LEAST six hours of sleep a night.  Professor Zombrek suggested always making time to get seven to eight hours of sleep per night.  This helps to reduce both mental and physical stress.  Not getting a consistent night’s sleep leads to drowsiness and fatigue during the day, but learning to get a good night’s sleep requires good time management skills, and utilizing stress-relieving techniques such as diaphragmatic breathing.  Ms. Brzezinski also suggests staying away from the bed when not sleeping, in order to associate the bed with sleeping and no other activity, i.e. reading, studying, videogames, and television.

Since we are a commuter school, students have to spend time to get to and fro.  Theresa has a smart phone that has an app for the popular music aggregate site Pandora on it.  “I drive from Oldsmar to Largo to Clearwater.  It’s almost a two hour drive every day and it’s a relaxing one thanks to my phone.”   Learn to let go of road rage – if someone cuts you off or doesn’t let you in, try not to get too upset about it.  The stressors of the road can lead to higher stress throughout the day.

Finally, eating a healthier diet and exercising regularly can also help your stress level.  Your physical state correlates to your emotional mood, so consistently eating fatty foods can lead to having less energy and motivation whereas eating healthier and exercising tend to lead to higher levels of energy and motivation.   Most fast food places are making attempts at having healthier menus so there are more options now for a tighter budget.  When deciding what to eat, a salad is often overlooked, but with a littler creativity it can be just as tasty and filling as any other meal.  Going out for a walk can be a very relaxing activity; combined with music it can be the ultimate escape from the stresses of the day.  Find a friend who is willing to join you and make the most out of it.

These are only a few friendly tips to help deal with the stresses that college students tend to accrue throughout their daily lives.  Take the time to sort out your problems so they don’t overwhelm you and consume your sanity.

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