The welcomed end to the semester cannot come before the dreaded bout of exams.
Which often means there is time more stressful for college students than final exam week.
“I’ve definitely had panic attacks before from procrastinating,” said Janet McDonald, 20, a junior studying German and international studies at Gilford College in Greensboro, NC.
“The bad part about (winter) finals is that you suffer from seasonal depression at the same time. So everything is just so overwhelming and you’re more emotional and more likely to be sad and stressed out.”
However, several years of preparing for the carnage has given some upperclassmen the opportunity to become semi-professional time and stress managers.
“In high school, tests don’t all happen on the same day,” said Chris Ware, 21, a junior in political science at Auburn University. “The thing about finals is that everything happens within a week so you kind of have to think a little bit longer term.”
For Ware, two and a half years of college finals have forced him to develop time management and prioritization strategies.
“The tests are a really big deal but a lot of times teachers will have assignments that aren’t related to the finals assigned like papers,” Ware said. “So trying to prioritize is a big thing.”
Ware added that he is sometimes forced to forgo studying for one class to focus on another that requires more attention. Making tough decisions about priorities has been the key to his success thus far.
Another time-honored method of stress reduction for final exam time is exercise.
“Other than just keeping myself focused on tests and things I have to do, I’m training for a half marathon,” McDonald said. “For me, exercising works really well in keeping me in a good mood.”
McDonald also said misery loves company when it comes to finals.
“Forcing myself to go to the library and seeing everyone else being productive also helps,” she said. “Knowing everyone else feels the same way keeps you from over-stressing because you know it’s normal.”
Other students have more unique methods.
“Sometimes I listen to really sad songs because it reminds me that somebody has a worse life than me right now,” said Amanda Wulforst, 21, a senior in English at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. “It kind of gives me some motivation.”
Justin Puder, 26, a doctoral student in Auburn’s counseling psychology department, discovered a world of meditation techniques by coping with exam stress.
As a master’s student, Puder began using Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, which combines elements of meditation and yoga.
“Throughout our days, we never stop in Western society,” Puder said. “We’re always so worried about the next thing and what we’ve got to do in the future that we’re not worried about the present moment. So there’s this stop technique, where a couple times a day, you stop, observe your environment, and then proceed what you are doing.”
Regardless of the coping mechanism, Wulforst does not let the stress consume her.
“I stay determined,” she said. “If I don’t finish, I’ll fail, and that’s not going to happen. You want that A and you’re going to go for it.”
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