Finals week is almost here, and for most students that means sleepless nights, countless cups of coffee and almost too much stress to handle. Stress is an accepted part of college life and it only gets worse during exams.
Half of U.S. college students said they felt overwhelming anxiety during the year, according to the 2013 National College Health Assessment.
College students are also “showing greater levels of stress, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and poor sleep patterns than any time in our nation’s history,” according to Psychology Today.
There are many factors as to why college students are more anxious, according to Psychology Today, including the evolution of technology, financial pressure, the U.S. healthcare system and most importantly for finals week stress — intense academic pressure.
Of course, it’s important to do well on finals and get good grades in classes, but it’s also important to not work yourself to exhaustion and remember to focus on mental health.
Rest, free time and even simply eating normal meals are things that get tossed out the window by some students during finals week — but they shouldn’t, all of those things are more important than academic success.
The negative effects of overstress are easily felt because most people have experienced them. Every year a number of students get sick during finals week. According to the Indian Journal of Commerce and Management studies, stress has a great impact on a student’s health.
“Stress can cause elevated blood pressure, headaches, stomach aches, sleeping problems and chest pains,” the journal writes. “Stress also has been shown to inhibit the immune system leading to more colds and sickness in times of stress. Further, chronic stress can severely impact both mental and physical health. It can decrease the likelihood of individuals to practice healthy habits.”
Yes, it’s been pounded into every student’s head that it’s important to rest before a test. We’ve all heard that cramming late at night won’t actually help you learn anything. But, despite knowing cramming before a test doesn’t work, the Klarchek Information Commons (IC) is open 24 hours during finals week to accommodate all the late night crammers.
This finals week, try to remember to step outside and get some fresh air. Make an effort to carve out a single hour to do something you want to do. Read a book for fun, watch Netflix or call your mom — do anything as long as it gives you a chance to step back from the chaos of finals week and regain some semblance of your humanity.
College is supposed to be a place where students gain experiences in and out of the classroom that help them live their lives. Finals week is stressful, but there will be stress out in the “real world” too. If the response to stress is panicking and staying up all night to get work finished then it isn’t being handled well.
It’s understandable that work gets pushed off and procrastinated on — it’s the easier thing to do. However, this isn’t a lecture about the dangers of procrastination, this is about the dangers of the constant need to be productive.
Relaxation and rest are two of the most important factors in both physical and mental health. They shouldn’t be ignored, given just as a reward for getting work done or as an escape from work. Rest and relaxation are needed in spite of a culture that tells us otherwise. During exams it just takes an extra reminder.
After graduating from Loyola, there won’t be any more finals weeks, but there will be all the stress that comes with being a young adult. Stress that includes learning how to succeed in a new career and regular life issues like relationships and financial independence.
The lessons learned during the most stressful times here at Loyola will be used again and again when dealing with stress at work.
The same principle applies here: Remember the importance of taking a break. At school it’s a free hour wherever it can be found; at work it’s the end of the day. Time to relax and unwind is important, and despite our society’s productivity standards, we don’t have to work ourselves to death.
In 2013, a Japanese reporter died after clocking 159 hours of overtime in the month before her death. That kind of overexertion is extreme and tragic, but it can be used as a lesson: No amount of career or academic success can make up for being physically and mentally healthy. Sometimes, it’s okay to close the laptop and the books and just unwind.
Work hard, but not too hard. Rest is just as important as succeeding at work or school. Rest shouldn’t just be a reward or an unattainable luxury, it’s an important part of mental health and well-being.