Students, Counseling Services share advice on coping with finals week stress

Daniel Faust, freshman in open option, studies math in Hale Library on Dec. 6, 2016. (Payton Heinze | The Collegian)

The fall semester has come and gone, and now Kansas State students are beginning to prepare for finals before winter break.

Students and professionals from Counseling Services discussed tips on controlling academic anxiety during finals week at a recent “Kat Chat” by Counseling Services.

Casie Duplissey, psychology intern for Counseling Services, and Melissa Miller, counselor for Counseling Services, talked about how to survive finals week.

“Stress is an emotional, cognitive, physical and behavioral reaction to any perceived demands or threats,” Miller said.

She said some level of stress is healthy, but too much stress for too long is problematic.

“If you have a test coming up or an assignment is coming up, you do want to be a little stressed out because you want to study and do well,” Miller said. “The stress can actually propel you to study and do well on the assignment.”

There are different stress responses.

“Some examples are that your heart starts pounding, you breathe faster and your muscles become tense,” Miller said.

Duplissey explained the Yerkes-Dodson law to students.

“There is a relationship between your performance level and your stress level,” Duplissey said. “Too much can impair your ability to concentrate and recall memory, too little may cause you to drift off or lose focus.”

Being more relaxed can help improve students’ grades.

“When we are less tense, we can concentrate better, absorb more information and more easily remember what we’ve learned,” Duplissey said.

She said relaxation “short-circuits” the stress response, keeping our bodies from being overly aroused by stressors.

Students were encouraged to learn to relax by practicing deep breathing, trying the grounding technique and giving themselves positive self-statements before, during and after tests.

“I have two finals this semester because it’s my last semester,” Shelbi Allen, senior in speech-language pathology, said. “In the past I’ve had finals weeks where I’ve had finals every day and that’s stressful.”

Allen said the best way to prepare for these is to start studying a week or two before finals week.

“It’s best to study in bits and pieces instead of cramming,” Allen said. “When we finally get to finals I take it day by day. The night before the test I will review for just that test and not cram for others.”

If finals had alternate times, Allen said, students may experience less stress because they can avoid taking multiple finals on the same day.

“I think professors can help students by providing an alternate time for their final,” Allen said. “It would help with stress.”

Cassie Beattie, sophomore in kinesiology, said she has four finals next week.

“I prepare normally by gathering all of my notes and creating Quizlets,” Beattie said. “I refer to my notes for my math and science classes so I can use them to help me better understand the class.”

Beattie said she uses the Quizlet flashcards for her other classes to memorize the terms.

“What stresses me out most about finals is time,” Beattie said. “Time management for studying, time between finals and time to take them.”

She also worries if they will hurt her grade or not.

“I cope with my stress by going to the Rec and treating myself to a nice dinner and smoothies after long hours of studying,” Beattie said.

Studying can also help relieve stress, Miller said.

“I think the more prepared you are for the test is going to alleviate some of the anxiety you may have,” Miller said.

Both Miller and Duplissey said that self-care is very important.

Students should make sure they are taking care of their basic needs, setting appropriate boundaries and planning time to study and review notes.

“The day of the final I always wake up early and study for an hour before my final,” Beattie said. “Then I have a good breakfast or lunch and I go take it.”

Beattie said she encourages other students to ask upperclassmen for help and to also use resources on campus.