Stress tips for finals week

My name is Andrew Mancini, I’m attending Valparaiso University, double majoring in business management and theater with a minor in German language and lit. That’s all the fancy way of saying: I have no idea what I want to do with my life. Performing is my passion and I love making people laugh. I have a lot of great ideas and no idea how to bring any of them to fruition. I’m just one more 20-something year old searching for his purpose, and sharing his experience.

College is supposed to be the time of our lives, yet everyday it seems that the stress compounds exponentially, the amount of time you have for a meal declines exponentially and any other fraction of a minute that’s labeled as “free-time” is spent worrying about classes, your friends, your relationship status, or any other of the 10,000 things you have on your plate.

I’m entering my second semester of my third year at Valparaiso University. This past semester has been the hardest, by far, that I’ve survived. Between a break up with my girlfriend a week before our 2-year anniversary, my car getting side-swiped by an insurance-less drunk driver (among having other functional issues), questioning my choice of studies, and getting hit in the face by the brutal realization that I’m supposed to be a fully functioning adult with a well-paying job and a 401K- whatever that means- in just 3 short semesters; let’s just leave it at: I’ve had my fair-share of panic attacks in the past few months.

Now, with finals approaching, along with the inner dialogue of whether or not leaving my bed just to walk through the torrents of freezing wind is worth the class participation, and final review sessions that the professors are holding is worth it every morning, I have to recognize that I did, in fact survive. Besides being my hardest class-load to date, this semester nearly emotionally crippled me. In light of this recognition I’ve decided to reflect on what exactly it was that motivated me to keep going, so hopefully I can learn some valuable lessons, and maybe even teach you some of those lessons before you have to learn them the hard way.

Keeping myself busy played one of the biggest roles in keeping me mentally healthy. My obligations made me get out of my room, and out of my mind. Keeping busy helped me force myself to make it, not for myself, but for the people that were relying on me to be there when and where I said I would. When the obligation was to someone rather than myself, it was easier to get going because I knew I’d be letting someone else down if I didn’t.

Another reason keeping busy is so vital is that when faced with 14 hours of classes, rehearsals, and meetings all before you have the time to start your homework or do any studying there is, needless to say, very little time that can be taken to focus on yourself, relax, de-stress and decompress. Finding that time amongst the chaos of trudging through a school-week becomes absolutely essential to survival. Bottom line: staying busy only keeps you healthy if you are able to continue finding the time to relax. This works as a symbiotic relationship: the busier you are the more satisfying, and important finding free-time becomes, while inversely the more free-time you have the more important it becomes to find organizations and communities to join.

Friends were the other essential piece that helped me put the puzzle of my life together. I’ve never experienced the feeling of being 100% alone before this semester. It was terrifying and I hope that you, reader, never have to go through that. However, after an absolutely draining week or two I realized how much the people I was interacting with daily truly did care. I started nursing those relationships like it was my only job and the result was an amazing web of support and connections that, more than anything, have helped me grow immensely as an individual. If you’re feeling stressed over the next few weeks do yourself a favor and find that time in your schedule for your friends.

Walling yourself off and holing up in the library, or your room, or wherever it is you study, is a very easy trap to fall into; especially when it comes to managing the stress of finals, and God-knows what other end of semester obligations you have going on- that all seem to be occurring at break-neck speed. These hermit habits, of course, are fueled by the 9-11pm coffee’s, 1:00am snack breaks and finally, the 3:00am 20 minute power naps. Even though this is often unavoidable, because when else are you going to write that 20-page paper you’ve had hanging over your head since before the midterm? It’s at the very least unhealthy. Your friends miss you, and you won’t find them in that calculus textbook.

I sincerely urge you, with finals happening in the next week or so, to make time for yourself and for friends (and for a meal for God’s Sake). Not a study group, not a rehearsal, and not a meeting. Really- go make a coffee date, take a drive and have a chat, or get your favorite friends together and watch a movie to forget about your obligations for an hour or two. I’m not telling you to blow off your final exams, I’m just saying that with the stress of the semester ending, it’s more important than you realize to take a time-out and a deep breath and foster the relationships that keep you on your feet when you feel too worn out to stand. Besides, if you haven’t learned it yet- you probably won’t learn it before the final anyway.

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