Take care of your mind and body during final exams

Students can take advantage of quiet study zone spaces at the Otto G. Richter Library.
By Jenny Hudak

Students can take advantage of quiet study zone spaces at the Otto G. Richter Library.

Take care of your mind and body during final exams

By Jenny Hudak
Wednesday marks the final day of the fall semester. With final exams around the corner, here are a few ways for students to manage their mental and physical well-being.

It’s final exams week at the University of Miami. Wednesday marks the final day of the fall semester and students are gearing up to for final exams, which begin on Monday.

“During the final weeks of the semester, we remind our students to take care of themselves and each other,” said Patricia A. Whitely, senior vice president for student affairs.

“The Division of Student Affairs and our campus partners support our students’ mental and physical well-being year-round. We encourage students to utilize these resources, reach out for support, and attend our programs, like ‘(De)Stress Fest’ hosted by Counseling Outreach Peer Education (COPE), the Student Government, and the Association of Greek Letter Organization on Thursday, to focus on their wellness to excel both in and out of the classroom,” she said.

While final exams week and the holiday season can induce increased stress levels, here are a few pieces of advice and a list of resources that are available on campus to help students excel during the final stretch of the fall semester.

Start by getting organized.

Having a plan to tackle assignments can help students focus, said Sai Sophia Hon, a doctoral practicum extern at the Counseling Center. Creating a study schedule and preparing your materials in an organized fashion help alleviate the stress of a busy schedule. 

“Divide your study materials or paper into manageable chunks to help you study consistently and effectively,” she said. “Find a study strategy that works well for you—such as finding a study group, preparing flashcards, or putting together a lecture on the material you’re struggling with.”

Practice mindfulness.

“During exam times, mindfulness can help us stay focused on the task at hand and to do so in a kind, supportive manner,” said Kelly Miller, associate dean of learning and research services at the Otto G. Richter Library. “Training ourselves to be in the present moment helps activate our parasympathetic nervous system, which helps us rest and care for ourselves with less stress, improves neuroplasticity, and increases creativity, as well.” 

Mindfulness involves cultivating our human capacity for present-moment awareness with a kind and non-judgmental attitude, she added. Easy ways to practice mindfulness include taking a few deep breaths with long exhales, grounding your attention in physical sensations in the hands or feet, or recalling a peaceful place in nature, such as a favorite tree or mountain that you associate with inspiration and resilience, Miller suggests.

Students looking for a quiet space to practice a moment of mindfulness can book a meditation room through the University Libraries.

Take care of your physical health.

A healthy body is essential to success during stressful times. Taking steps to manage your well-being can help limit the negative effects of stress on your body.

“It’s really important, especially during times of increased stress, to tune in to your body’s natural state. Be aware of how you typically feel and act during less stressful times,” said Aidan Wells, a health educator with the Department of Wellness and Recreation. 

To mitigate levels of stress, Wells suggested simple steps like getting regular physical activity, taking a yoga class, practicing relaxation techniques, and setting aside time for hobbies, such as reading a book or listening to music to relax. To get moving, students can attend a group exercise class at the Herbert Wellness Center.

In addition to moving your body, nourishing it is equally as crucial, she added.

“Take advantage of the on-campus dining options. Why have the added stress of cooking or worrying about what restaurants deliver, when you can find healthy, balanced meals right at the dining halls,” Wells said.

Get a full night's rest.

When it seems as if there aren’t enough hours in the day, it can be tempting to sacrifice those extra hours of sleep to get work done. Studies show that college students who pull all-nighters perform worse than students who get proper sleep. 

“If you can’t commit to increasing the amount of sleep you’re getting, at least do everything you can to improve the quality of your sleep,” Wells said. “Make sure that you are sleeping in a cold, dark, and quiet environment. And limit electronic use in the 30 minutes leading up to sleep. If you can do this, then you will wake up feeling more well-rested overall.”

Participate in stress-relief activities on campus.

Participating in simple activities like coloring, petting a dog, or squeezing a stress ball, all of which are available at the University Libraries, can help alleviate stress during finals. 

On Thursday, students can visit the Rock Plaza from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m. for “(De)Stress Fest” hosted by Counseling Outreach Peer Education (COPE), the Student Government, and the Association of Greek Letter Organizations to indulge in stress-relief activities.

Know when it’s time to seek support.

Be aware of how you typically feel and act during less stressful times.

Physical manifestations of stress include, but aren’t limited to, headaches, difficulty sleeping, upset stomach, change in eating habits, social withdrawal, outbursts, and substance misuse.

If you start to feel yourself experiencing these symptoms, it may be time to take a step back. Wells and Hon agreed to stay alert to how you feel, so that you can catch these symptoms before they become unmanageable. 

If you've taken steps to control your stress, but your symptoms continue, it may be time to consider seeking professional support, such as those available at the Counseling Center. Schedule a brief assessment appointment to engage in problem solving or to be connected with therapy and psychiatry options. 

Hon also suggests students utilize WellTrack, a free online self-directed therapy experience that includes structured sections on managing depression and anxiety, tools and resources to deal with these issues, relaxation exercises, and simulated situations to deal with specific anxieties, including public speaking in anticipation of presentations.

Additional resources for students