Health and Medicine University

Prioritize well-being during final exams

Wednesday marks the first day of final exams for the fall semester. Here’s a list of resources and some expert advice to support students’ mental and physical welfare during what can be a stressful time.
stress free finals
Students enjoy mingling with puppies during finals week. Photo: Matthew Rembold/University of Miami

In addition to the fast-approaching holidays, students also have to contend with final exams, which begin Wednesday as the fall semester comes to a close.

With lengthy exams and project deadlines bright on their radar, students often experience increased levels of stress during this time.

“Finals is always a stressful time, especially if you are a new student at the University,” said Patricia A. Whitely, senior vice president for student affairs and alumni engagement. “The University stands ready to assist and help students take care of themselves and to provide the proper resources they need to be successful academically and personally.” 

While final exams week can induce increased pressure, the following lists a few pieces of advice and resources that are available on campus to help students successfully get through the last stretch of the semester.

Make a Plan

Having a plan to tackle assignments can help students focus, advised Huan Quan, doctoral intern at the Counseling Center. Creating a study schedule and preparing materials in an organized fashion helps alleviate the strain of a busy schedule.

“Having a concrete and organized study plan is helpful. I would also suggest students focus on one task at a time,” said Quan. “Stress often builds up when we ruminate about the past or worry about the future. When students can focus on the present task without ruminating about the last exam or worrying about the next project, the work efficiency often increases, which in turn contributes to a sense of fulfillment and makes it easier to move on to the next task on the to-do list.”

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,” she added. 

“Our Libraries are delighted to be able to provide space, resources, and programming to support students’ well-being throughout the semester and, especially, during the exam period,” she continued. “Libraries are critical spaces on campus for quieting, balancing, and connecting with what matters most in stressful times.” 

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

Mindfulness involves cultivating our human capacity for present-moment awareness with a kind and nonjudgmental attitude, Miller pointed out. Easy ways to practice mindfulness include taking a few deep breaths accompanied by long exhalations, grounding one’s attention in physical sensations in the hands or feet, or recalling a peaceful place in nature, such as a favorite tree or mountain that is associated with inspiration and resilience.

Move the body

A healthy body is essential to success during stressful times. Taking steps to manage well-being can help limit the negative effects of tension on the 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, assistant director for student health and well-being for 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. 

“Our yoga classes are offered every day and have an emphasis on relaxation techniques that help connect your mind and body. One of the most common physical symptoms of stress is muscle tension—for example, tightness in the shoulders or back—and yoga is an excellent way to relieve this tension,” she said.

Wells also encourages students to stop by the Herbert Wellness Center to try out the brand-new Wellness Pod. 

“RelaxSpace Wellness Pods offer a fully immersive experience for relaxation and mindfulness. Featuring large format visuals and audio, temperature, and scent controls, a personalized and rejuvenating escape awaits,” she said. 

To get moving, students can attend a group exercise class at the Wellness Center. 

Prioritize quality sleep

“Sleep plays a crucial role in both physical and mental health,” Huan said. “I would suggest students maintain their regular sleep routine even during stressful times. Sudden changes in sleep routine could be disruptive to our mind and body, which might make stressful times more challenging to handle.” And studies show that college students who pull all-nighters perform worse than those who get proper sleep. 

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 the pressure during finals.

On Dec. 6, students can visit the Lakeside Patio from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. for “(De)Stress Fest” to indulge in stress-relief activities, hosted by the Association of Greek Letters Organization, Student Government, and the Counseling Center. 

Eat healthfully

Nutrition experts agree that students who eat breakfast perform well on exams. And they should avoid eating too many carbs and sugary foods but instead opt for protein-rich and plant-based foods.

“When people feel stressed, they tend to let go of some healthy life habits, like eating regularly and staying hydrated, which often undermines physical health and exacerbates stress,” Quan noted. 

Know when it’s time to ask for help

Students should be aware of how they typically feel and act during less tense times. 

“If the stress becomes too overwhelming and starts to impair daily functioning, students may consider seeking professional help, such as through counseling services,” Huan pointed out. 

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 students have taken steps to control stress, but symptoms continue, it may be time to consider seeking professional support, such as the services available at the Counseling Center. Schedule a brief assessment appointment or check out additional mental health services and resources on their website.  

Wellness Resources

Campus Facilities

Academic Resources