Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Finals Stress and Your Perception of It


     There are a variety of forces colliding right now that could really make a college student stressed out. The economy is crashing, and I'm definitely feeling it. The weather is dull and dreary, and it makes me want to stay on the couch instead of going to the gym. And at my school, it's dead week, meaning finals are just around the corner.
     As I've discussed, we know stress can wreak havoc on a healthy diet, as it has a negative effect on health in general. We hear a lot of advice about how to deal with it. We know to get enough sleep, eat well, and take study breaks. But there are a few other ways to manage stress that are less often discussed. When we have a lot to deal with, how we handle it is all about perception.
     In small amounts, stress can actually be a good thing. According to MSNBC, moderate amounts of stress can help people perform tasks more efficiently and even improve memory. "Stress is a burst of energy," says psychiatrist Dr. Lynne Tan of Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. "It’s our body telling us what we need to do." 
     Whether we react negatively to stress depends on our perception of it. If we regard it as motivation, we won't be as bothered by it. If I consider the weather to be "bad," my mood will be down, but I've actually been using it as a reason to give myself permission to relax.
     While it may seem like the final exams comprise a huge chunk of course grades, your GPA will reflect the entire semester's worth of effort, not the "cramming" at the last minute. 
     And your GPA is not as important as your mental health. No one is going to ask you your GPA when you graduate; putting it on your resume is optional. Realize that many people take 5 years to graduate, and 12 credits a semester shouldn't be out of the question. Don't worry yourself about things that aren't going to matter 10 years from now.
     If you've had problems with disordered eating, this time of year may present new challenges, so be prepared. It may be tempting to use studying as an excuse to "forget to eat." To keep myself from doing this, I try to remind myself that starving myself will catch up with me. And I don't want to be tempted to overeat later, especially during the holiday season. Whatever your own challenges are, try to come up with an actual plan of action rather than pushing the thoughts out of your mind.
     Surviving College Life has some excellent tips for tackling finals. 
     WebMD has a list of foods to combat stress. Hint: complex carbs is a big one.

What other tips did I miss?


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