‘Treat yo self’: De-stress before you distress at the semester’s end

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The stores have cleared any traces of autumn decorations from the shelves, all the commercials on TV are holiday-themed and Mariah Carey is once again belting “All I Want for Christmas Is You” on the radio stations. These are all signs of the approach of the most wonderful time of the year: winter break.

However, before Kansas State students can throw their laundry and bedding into their cars and drive off into the sunset, they must first run the gauntlet of the least wonderful time of the year: finals week.

Finals week is a source of stress for all students in college. However, freshmen especially receive the brunt of finals week freak-outs. Like many things in college, the finals week schedule that looms over freshmen’s heads is nothing like what they experienced in high school.

“Finals week is definitely more stressful as a freshman because I’ve never experienced it,” Ayanna Castro-Ross, freshman in microbiology, said. “In high school, they were scheduled all in one day [and] teachers gave you study guides, but in college you actually have to study it for yourself.”

Like many college students, Castro-Ross said she has a sporadic sleep schedule, “going to bed at 2 a.m. and waking up at 7:30 a.m. to go to class.”

However, one of the things students can do to lower their stress during finals week is modifying the one thing they do every night (and sometimes every day): their sleep schedule.

“Sleep should become a priority,” said Kodee Walls, staff psychologist for K-State Counseling Services. “You need to have good sleep hygiene, which means you’re waking up and going to bed at the same times, you’re minimizing naps and you’re not pulling all-nighters.”

While conflicting work schedules and extracurricular activities may lead to some late night studying, Walls suggested other methods of de-stressing.

“Using YouTube for relaxation techniques like breathing exercises, meditations and mindfulness exercises … it can be a really powerful tool,” Walls said.

While it may seem counter-intuitive, sometimes a helpful way to lower stress is to simply step away from schoolwork.

“I like to make sure I’m noticing my stress signals,” Walls said. “If I’m trying to get a lot of work done but I’m not accomplishing as much as I normally would, that’s kind of a signal I need to take a break.”

However, this does not necessarily mean binge-watching Netflix in your room to deal with stress. Walls said there are more productive things students can do on breaks.

“I know students can’t usually have pets in the dorms, but being in contact with something or someone physical and living is really helpful,” Walls said.

For students living on-campus, this may mean taking part in campus events such as the End-of-the-Semester De-Stresser event taking place at the Student Union on Dec. 5 from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m.

At this event, students can partake in activities such as henna tattooing, “Free Stuff-A-Plush” and trying smoothie samples from Just Salad.

On a smaller scale, many resident assistants like Abbey Lewis, Moore Hall RA and sophomore in business, plan fun activities for their residents during this stressful time of year.

“As an RA, the best thing I can do for my residents is give them things to do as breaks from studying to keep their minds off stressors,” Lewis said. “This week, I’m doing a cookie decoration party and some de-stress activities for a program.”

Lewis also had suggestions for off-campus de-stressing activities.

“Around Manhattan this time of year, you can go ice skating, hike the Konza or study and get coffee at Arrow or Bluestem Bistro.”

For some students, these may be band-aid solutions for deeper issues, such as chronic anxiety and depression. In these cases, the K-State Counseling Services provide up to four free individual counseling sessions per year to enrolled students.

While visiting the Counseling Services may seem like a daunting experience to students who have never experienced therapy, it can be a life-changing experience.

“I think a lot of times, students who come into Counseling Services often worry they’re going to be a burden,” Walls said. “They think, ‘Well, everyone else is kind of stressed, I don’t want to talk about how bothered I am.’ But in reality, even that shared experience of, ‘I’m not doing so well right now,’ can offer students support they otherwise wouldn’t have gotten.”

While finals week can be frightful, taking the steps to de-stress can make at least some parts of it delightful.

For self-help resources, students can visit the Topics page at the Counseling Services’ website. To schedule an individual therapy session with the Counseling Services, call 785-532-6927 or visit their website.

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