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Library Displays: Finals Week Stress Management

Monthly displays in the library.

Finals Week Stress Management - Fall 2018

What Is Stress?

What Is Stress?

Stress is your body’s way of responding to any kind of demand or threat. When you feel threatened, your nervous system responds by releasing a flood of stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, which rouse the body for emergency action. Your heart pounds faster, muscles tighten, blood pressure rises, breath quickens, and your senses become sharper. These physical changes increase your strength and stamina, speed your reaction time, and enhance your focus. This is known as the “fight or flight” or mobilization stress response and is your body’s way of protecting you.

When stress is within your comfort zone, it can help you to stay focused, energetic, and alert. In emergency situations, stress can save your life—giving you extra strength to defend yourself, for example, or spurring you to slam on the brakes to avoid an accident. Stress can also help you rise to meet challenges. Stress is what keeps you on your toes during a presentation at work, sharpens your concentration when you’re attempting the game-winning free throw, or drives you to study for an exam when you'd rather be watching TV. But beyond your comfort zone, stress stops being helpful and can start causing major damage to your mind and body.

 

The Body’s Stress Response

When you need (or think you need) to defend yourself or run away from danger, your body prepares for mobilization. The nervous system rouses for emergency action—preparing you to either fight or flee from the danger at hand.

If mobilization fails, the body freezes instead, a response known as immobilization. In extreme, life-threatening situations, you may even lose consciousness, enabling you to survive high levels of physical pain. This can leave you traumatized or unable to move on.

 

The Effects of Chronic Stress

The body’s nervous system often does a poor job of distinguishing  between daily stressors and life-threatening events. If you’re stressed over an argument with a friend, a traffic jam on your commute, or a mountain of bills, for example, your body can still react as if you’re facing a life-or-death situation.

When you repeatedly experience the mobilization or fight-or-flight stress response in your daily life, it can lead to serious health problems.  Chronic stress disrupts nearly every system in your body. It can shut down your immune system, upset your digestive and reproductive     systems, raise blood pressure, increase the risk of heart attack and stroke, speed up the aging process and leave you vulnerable to many mental and physical health problems.

Causes of Stress

Causes of Stress

The situations and pressures that cause stress are known as stressors. We usually think of stressors as being negative, such as an exhausting work schedule or a rocky relationship. However, anything that puts high demands on you can be stressful. This includes positive events such as getting married, buying a house, going to college, or receiving a promotion.

Of course, not all stress is caused by external factors. Stress can also be internal or self-generated, when you worry excessively about something that may or may not happen, or have irrational, pessimistic thoughts about life.

Some common external causes of stress include major life changes, work or school, relationship difficulties, financial problems, being too busy, children and family. Common internal causes of stress may include chronic worry, pessimism, rigid thinking or lack of flexibility, negative self-talk, unrealistic expectations, and an all-or-nothing attitude.

 

Stress Tolerance: How Much Stress Is Too Much?

We're all different. Some people seem to be able to roll with life’s punches, while others tend to crumble in the face of small obstacles or frustrations. Some people even thrive on the excitement of a high-stress lifestyle. For example, your morning commute may make you anxious and tense because you worry that traffic will make you late. Others, however, may find the trip relaxing because they allow more time and enjoy listening to music while they drive.

Your resiliency to stress depends on many factors, but there are steps you can take to improve your tolerance and handle more setbacks and challenges without becoming overwhelmed by stress.

 

 

Traumatic Events and Stress

Traumatic Events and Stress

Sometimes after experiencing a traumatic event that is especially  frightening—including personal or environmental disasters, or being threatened with an assault—people have a strong and lingering stress reaction to the event. Strong emotions, jitters, sadness, or depression may all be part of this normal and temporary reaction to the stress of an overwhelming event.

Feeling emotional and nervous or having trouble sleeping and eating can all be normal reactions to stress. Engaging in healthy activities and getting the right care and support can put problems in perspective and help stressful feelings subside in a few days or weeks. Some tips for     beginning to feel better are:

  • Take care of yourself
  • Eat healthy, well-balanced meals
  • Exercise on a regular basis
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Give yourself a break if you feel stressed out
  • Talk to others. Share your problems and how you are feeling and coping with a parent, friend, counselor, doctor, or pastor.
  • Avoid drugs and alcohol. Drugs and alcohol may seem to help with the stress. In the long run, they create additional problems and increase the stress you are already feeling.
  • Take a break. If your stress is caused by a national or local event, take breaks from listening to the news stories, which can increase your stress.

 

 

Our Books on College Stress Management

Health Problems Caused By Stress

Health problems caused or exacerbated by stress include:

  1.  Depression and Anxiety
  2.  Weight Problems
  3.  Auto Immune Diseases
  4.  Skin Conditions
  5.  Reproductive Issues
  6.  Pain
  7.  Heart Disease
  8.  Digestive Problems
  9.  Sleep Problems
  10.  Cognitive and Memory Problems

 

Signs and Symptoms of Chronic Stress or Stress Overload

The following table lists some of the common warning signs and symptoms of chronic stress. The more signs and symptoms you notice in yourself, the closer you may be to stress overload.

Cognitive Symptoms
Emotional Symptoms

· Memory problems

· Inability to concentrate

· Poor judgment

· Seeing only the negative

· Anxious or racing thoughts

· Constant worrying

· Depression or general unhappiness

· Anxiety and agitation

· Moodiness, irritability, or anger

· Feeling overwhelmed

· Loneliness and isolation

· Other mental or emotional health problems

Physical Symptoms
Behavioral Symptoms

· Aches and pains

· Diarrhea or constipation

· Nausea, dizziness

· Chest pain, rapid heartbeat

· Loss of sex drive

· Frequent colds or flu

· Eating more or less

· Sleeping too much or too little

· Withdrawing from others

· Procrastinating or neglecting responsibilities

· Using alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs to relax

· Nervous habits (e.g. nail biting, pacing)

Improve Your Stress Tolerance

 

Improve Your Stress Tolerance

You probably spend most of the weeks leading up to finals staying up until 3:00 a.m., reading and re-reading a semester’s worth of notes, and downing coffee after coffee. But too much stress isn’t healthy, and the following ideas can help students slow down, de-stress, and have fun before finals start.

  • Paws to De-Stress—A happy, tail-wagging dog can soothe even the most maxed-out student. In the words of Charles Schultz, “Happiness is a warm puppy.” A few minutes petting or playing with a dog will brighten a stressful day, and the dog likes it too!
  • Scream Therapy—Being under so much stress can make you want to scream. So why don’t you? At many schools around the country, students take part in a “primal scream,” where everyone opens their dorm windows and screams as loud as they can for about five minutes.
  • Cut Down on Caffeine—Coffees, sodas and energy drinks all contain a large amount of caffeine, and if you are relying on them to help keep you up during your cram sessions, then you may be doing more harm than good. In fact, an overabundance of caffeine can cause mood swings, stress, lack of sleep and a jittery feeling.
  • Get Moving—Go for a jog, take an aerobics class, do yoga or grab a quick game of basketball with your best buds. Just take a few minutes to step away from the books and focus on something other than physics for an hour or so.
  • Laugh, It’s the Best Medicine—Yes, it is finals week and your time is precious, but taking some time to laugh might be just what you need.

 

 

  • Meditate — Learning to clear your mind and focus on breathing can do wonders for stress. All you need is a quiet space.
  • Catch Some Zs — Sleep is a luxury most college students can’t  afford, so get it whenever you can. Grab a quick nap between classes or allow yourself to doze off a little every time you switch your study topic.
  • Eat Healthy—It is easier and more convenient to order that large pepperoni pizza with extra cheese, but your mind and your waistline will not thank you for it. Instead, focus on eating healthy whole grains, proteins, fruits and vegetables.

 

Study

Time Management During Final Exams

Ten Ways to Manage Time When Studying For Final Exams         

  1. Make a schedule and stick to it.
  2. Prioritize your “to-do” list the night before or first thing in the morning.
  3. Be sure to set deadlines for yourself
  4. Make sure you write in time to do things that are necessary, like grocery shopping, cooking dinner or walking the dog. These things can’t necessarily be avoided just because it’s finals time!
  5. Delegate responsibilities when possible. Working on a group project? Don’t offer to type the entire thing the night before if you don’t really have the time. This is the point of a group project.
  6. Use a timer to keep yourself on time with each task. If you know you can read 20 pages in your Psych book in an hour, allow yourself one hour to do it.
  7. Make sure your surroundings are conducive to studying. This will help minimize the time you waste.
  8. Make sure you get enough sleep each night and are eating a good meal in the morning.
  9. Leave time for relaxation. You won’t retain any of the information you’re cramming into your brain if you’re too fried from staring at books all day, every day. Make a “no study on Saturday nights” rule and allow yourself to have a date night with your significant other or a dinner date with your parents.
  10. If all else fails, get yourself one of Hermione’s Time Turners.*

 

*A Time-Turner is a device used for time travel. It is a special timepiece which resembles an hourglass on a necklace. Harry Potter and Hermione Granger use a Time-turner.