Here's how ASU students can survive finals week

Seven ways to manage stress towards the end of the semester

With final exams and semester deadlines approaching, many students find themselves battling stress.

It’s important for students to prioritize their mental and physical well-being while studying to retain the information they are learning and do better on their tests, according to some ASU professors. 

Here are seven ways for students to manage stress during the weeks leading up to finals:

1. Planning ahead

According to Kerry Draney, a faculty associate who teaches the class SWU 250: Stress Management Tools, it is important to prepare yourself and your space before you study. Draney  suggests organizing your notes and scheduling time to sit down and study in a quiet place with limited distractions. 

ASU libraries and public libraries have quiet zones and private and group study rooms that students can use.

Coffee shops often provide an ideal place for students to avoid distraction as well. Many local coffee shops are relatively quiet or play mellow music, and offer free wi-fi to customers. 

King Coffee, across the street from Gammage on the Tempe campus, has study nooks with tables and chairs for students to use.  The Coffee Shop, near the Polytechnic campus, features a quieter room towards the back with comfortable chairs for studying.

Additionally, Fair Trade Café, across from Cronkite on the downtown Phoenix campus, has changed its atmosphere for the month of November to help students de-stress while preparing for finals.

Stephanie Vasquez, the owner of Fair Trade, said she changed the music at that location to music that “enhances memorization and concentration,” set out essential oils for students to use and is offering a student veggie and humus deal that is high in protein.

“Since we are there for the students, we wanted to create a menu and an ambiance to help them," she said. 

2. Sounds and smells

If students prefer to study at home, they can create a relaxing atmosphere by purchasing essential oils or lighting aromatherapy candles and playing relaxing music while they study. 

Draney suggests students listen to music by Beethoven, Dvorak, Vivaldi, Jim Brickman, Yanni, Enya and other artists. Additionally, students can find playlists to help them study on Spotify and other music sites.



3. Healthy eating

According to Susan Horowitz, a graduate student in mass communications who will be teaching Stress Management Tools in spring 2018, it’s important for students to be purposeful about what they eat and to keep their blood sugar balanced.

She said students will often grab quick snacks that are high in sugar, which provides a short boost of energy but results in a crash later. Instead, students should eat foods that are fresh and high in protein.

Additionally, she said it’s important for students to stay hydrated and drink a lot of water while learning and studying.

“When we’re stressed, it’s easy to turn to excess caffeine, or use alcohol as a way to relax,” Horowitz said. “Even though that’s tempting, it’s best to chug water throughout the day.”

4. Sleep

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine suggests that college age students, adults 18 and over, need seven to eight hours of sleep every night. 

However, according to a 2015 survey of ASU students by the American College Health Association, only 6.5 percent of students say they get enough sleep all week long, and over 72 percent say that studying is the main reason they lack sleep.

According to Horowitz, it's important for students to be well-rested when going into their finals, not only to do well on their tests but for their overall health. The Live Well @ ASU website offers information and resources on ways for students to improve their sleep.

5. Taking breaks

Horowitz and Draney both agree that it’s important to set aside time to do something other than studying, such as exercising, stretching or meditating.

“It may seem silly to take this time when you are super busy and stressed,” Horowitz said. “But physical activity and meditation calm your brain, release those feel-good hormones and allow you to show up in a better and calmer place for yourself.”

Student can take advantage of the Sun Devil Fitness Center, yoga classes, or follow online videos like the one UCLA offers for free on its website here.

Horowitz also suggested taking time to chat with friends or family. She said doing one of these things for only a few minutes can be extremely beneficial to a student’s mental well-being. 

6. Practicing mindfulness

Draney emphasized practicing mindfulness as an key tool to destress. She said it’s important to take deep breaths right before a test and to focus on your time taking the final, not thinking about anything that happened before or will happen after.

She said it's important to recognize that you are stressed, accept those feelings, and then work to counteract them, as she teaches in her class.

“Pay attention to your emotions, thoughts and instincts and accept the experience,” Draney said. “Then, willingly choose how you will respond to that stress.”

7. Rewards

Lastly, a method both teachers suggested is to set up a reward for yourself. This could be an activity or a treat – something to celebrate your accomplishments after hours or weeks of studying and test taking. 

If students find themselves unable to deal with their stress, counseling services are available for students on all ASU campuses. 


 Reach the reporter at abpotter@asu.edu and follow @abpotter4 on Twitter. 

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