Take care of your physical, mental health during finals
The realization that finals week is approaching is typically followed by unanimous groans in the classroom, a spike in one’s blood pressure and a sudden and blatant disregard for one’s sleep schedule. In the student community, taking care of one’s mental and physical health, which should always be a priority, often falls secondary to ensuring success on finals.
It’s not breaking news that students sacrifice a good night’s rest in order to have a few extra hours to cram copious amounts of material, carefully calculating the trade-off of suffering decreased cognitive functioning due to the lack of sleep. Instead of ditching the prospect of sleep altogether, which usually does more harm than good, try taking small naps whenever possible to boost energy levels as well as productivity.
Consecutive all-nighters, as unhealthy as they are, don’t exist in isolation. A reduction in sleep is usually accompanied by a binge diet of energy drinks and fatty foods. While this may sound seductive to a student laboring through finals, limiting these drinks and foods and consuming a “brain-healthy diet” of unsaturated fats (fish, olive oil), vitamin E and antioxidants (citrus, dark-skinned fruits and vegetables) has shown to increase the ability to focus as well as have memory benefits.
Another notorious player in a highly-competitive academic environment is a prescription stimulant called Adderall, also referred to as “addy.” Though it is prescribed to help individuals manage their ADHD and ADD, Adderall is also commonly found circulating illegally on college campuses, exploited by students for its performance-enhancing properties, such as improved concentration and alertness. While using Adderall may seem like a good idea during the days before a brutal final, it is important to note that, as an amphetamine, Adderall often causes symptoms such as loss of appetite, increased paranoia and increased risk for seizures and stroke at high doses, and can also have immense addictive potential with repeated administration. Instead of turning to study drugs, going for a quick run can produce a natural high and elevate one’s mood, as well as alleviate stress and improve focus.
Elevated levels of stress during finals week also exacerbate the symptoms of imposter syndrome, a serious condition that plagues many members of the student community. Pressure to achieve drives afflicted students to relate their worth with their competency and they tend to attribute their successes to luck, fearing that they will soon be revealed as a “fraud” at any given moment. Every student has a vision of optimal performance and failure—or the mere thought of failure—to meet the demands of that vision can induce feelings of inadequacy, anxiety and depression. While students suffering from the syndrome often credit these negative feelings as a mental and emotional tax that they must pay to be on the agonizing path to success, it is important to be cognizant of these thoughts and actively reject them. Instead, practicing healthy behaviors, such as being gentle with oneself, realizing that no one can attain perfection and learning to celebrate small moments of triumph can go a long way in staving off negative thoughts. Talking to someone can also help, so turn to a trusted friend or family member or consider stopping by Student Health and Counseling Services for a session.
Though students may loathe the menacing approach of finals week, a torrent of exams will inevitably arrive every quarter with an annoying punctuality. The Editorial Board feels that it is therefore crucial to remind students that they are human firsts and students second. You owe it your body to eat and sleep as regularly as possible, abstain from “study drugs” and take care of your mental health. Let’s say “hello” to finals without saying “goodbye” to our health.
Written by: The Editorial Board