Surviving finals with your mental health intact

Arianne Arciaga

The period between Thanksgiving break and finals week can be a very stressful time for college students. During these next two weeks there are projects due, papers to write and exams to take. While it’s important to do well on your finals, it’s just as important to take care of yourself during this time of year. 

Eating healthy

If you want to keep your focus and your energy up during study sessions, eating regularly and healthy will help you do just that. Meals consisting of high fats and sugar can drain your energy, making you feel overly tired and sluggish. Loading up on fruits, vegetables and protein can fuel you with long-term energy. 

According to a study by North Central University, foods with high vitamins, minerals, good fats and antioxidants can increase awareness and mental sharpness. 

“Eating healthy helps your brain function and makes you feel good,” said Stephen Cheng, Director of Counseling & Psychology Services (CAPS). “My body feels weak and unhealthy after eating junk food and I did not operate at my best.”

Getting enough sleep 

A large amount of your time is going into studying and doing schoolwork during the last couple of weeks of the semester. However, you need to make sure that you keep a degree of balance. If you work constantly without any sleep and are pulling all nighters your energy will run low and you won’t study as effectively anyway.

According to a study by the Harvard Medical Institute, someone who is sleep-deprived cannot focus attentively and will not retain information as much as someone who has had a full amount of sleep. Sleep will improve the quality and retention of studying, even though you may have less study time

For students who need a place to rest up and don’t want to sleep in the library or their cars, SF State provides a safe resting place: the Zen Den. If you are a student who is in need of sleep, the Zen Den offers cots, sleeping mats, blankets and pillows just for you. They offer a white noise maker to block outside sounds and dim the lights to give you a good rest. The Zen Dens are located in the Student Health Services conference room (Mondays and Wednesday from 1:45 p.m. to 3:15 p.m.) and in the Mashouf Wellness Center in room 105 (Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m.). 

Exercise

Exercise helps you focus. It gives you additional energy and the endorphins to release the stress you may be feeling during finals. Whether it’s doing yoga, playing a game of basketball or even going for a quick walk, exercising is a great way to relieve stress.  

“Exercising is extremely beneficial when you’re studying,” Kinesiology major Adriann Kelsey said. “Not only is it a great way for you to take a study break but you feel good after doing it. Feeling good while you’re studying, to me, gives you the confidence you need to get into a busy week.” 

Having “Me” time 

Studying for hours on end is not beneficial. If you overload yourself with information, your brain will not retain or fully understand the material. A study by the Ohio State University found that studying for long hours and cramming information doesn’t allow our brains to retain long-term information.

To keep yourself alert, focused and sane during your study time make sure you take a timeout for yourself. Whether that’s watching your favorite show on Netflix, hanging out with friends, or reading a book, make sure to schedule some time just for you.

“It’s important to take care of yourself during this time in the semester,” said Brendan Tang, Business Information Systems major. “Stress is something all students go through and everyone copes with it differently. I destress by working out or hanging out with some friends.”

Seeing a counselor 

If you find yourself needing help with managing your stress, consider talking with a counselor. The Counseling & Psychology Services (CAPS) is available for all students Monday through Thursday from 8:00 a.m. to 6:45 p.m. and Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. during the academic year. 

Cheng said during this time of the semester the number of students they meet with increases, which means it can be a little tricky to meet with a counselor individually. However, CAPS offers different groups for students that can help them reduce stress levels. The groups include Mindfulness, Be Here Now and Tranquil Minds. These groups focus on destressing students by giving them breathing exercises and practicing meditation. 

“We [CAPS] strongly encourage our students to practice good self care and refer to the different groups that are running on campus,” Cheng said. “We want our students to maintain a balance in their lives and to keep eating healthy and exercising.”