Stress isn’t always a bad thing. This common reaction can trigger a fight or flight response that can help us push through obstacles or fear. But when levels reach an unhealthy level, stress can be debilitating and lead to long-term health issues. With finals on the horizon, this can be a challenging time for students.
“It’s typical that end-of-semester stress is higher,” said Linda Bloom, director of the Embry-Riddle Counseling Center. “Students are feeling the pressure and demands of completing projects, papers, and prepare for final exams.”
Not sure how to lower your stress level? Here are some tips:
Identify Stress Triggers
If you can identify what is causing your stress, then you can develop a plan for avoiding stress triggers or minimizing their impact. For example, students who are feeling overwhelmed with coursework or finals may need help with time management or to speak with their instructors about their concerns, Bloom said. Creating a plan for dealing with stress is one way to make it more manageable.
Seek Academic Support
If you’re stressed over exams and need additional help, campus departments like the Academic Advancement Center offer student services to address a variety of issues. Meeting with a residence advisor or counselor can also help. “Talk to your residence adviser about how they prepare for final exams and manage the end of semester stress,” said John Barnousky, Embry-Riddle Associate Director of Housing and Residential Life. “RAs balance many academic and work commitments and can be a great resource to provide tips for stress and time management.”
Maximize Campus Resources
Most schools provide a range of services to meet student mental health needs. The Embry-Riddle Counseling Center offers free counseling services, resources and support. The counseling center also is home to a certified facility dog named Peppino. Look for his picture on the center’s front door to see if he’s “in.” Peppino is available for brief walk-in office visits and can join students in counseling sessions by request. “It has been clinically proven that petting, touching and talking to animals lowers a person’s blood pressure, relieves stress and eases depression,” Bloom said. The counseling center also offers anonymous online assessments and resources through ERNIE.
Take Care of Your Body
Exercise may be the hardest thing to make time for when your to-do list is a mile high, but 30 minutes of activity a day can reduce stress hormones, flood the body with endorphins and boost energy. At Embry-Riddle in Daytona Beach, the Eagle Fitness Center is open daily and offers group fitness classes, strength training equipment and a cardio deck. Getting at least eight hours of sleep and eating healthy also play key roles in stress prevention.
Moderate Caffeine Intake
Caffeine can have negative effects when used to supplement adequate rest. “Though it may be tempting to fuel up with coffee and energy drinks to get through finals week, caffeine can actually elevate your body’s stress response and increase anxiety - making it harder to concentrate. Water is a much better alternative,” said Eagle Fitness Director Greta LeDoyen.
Taking a few minutes to relax and unwind is key for lowering stress. Embry-Riddle hosts several on-campus programs during finals week to give students a chance to relax and take a break from studying. Others ideas for relieving stress include taking walks and/or hot baths; practicing yoga; napping; or catching up with friends and loved ones, said Pam Petrone, wellness coordinator for Embry-Riddle. The school’s wellness program also provides students with a retreat each semester before and after finals, which includes a day of surfing on the beach or kayaking.
Meditate or Practice Spirituality
Spending a few minutes to mediate or take deep breaths can help the brain deal with stress. Several free, guided meditations are available online to help walk you through the process. Embry-Riddle’s Center for Faith and Spirituality, located on the west side of campus near McKay Hall, also has five prayer and meditation rooms open each day from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. The center also holds a weekly Buddhist meditation every Monday at 4 p.m. and other services each week.
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, the world’s largest, fully accredited university specializing in aviation and aerospace, is a nonprofit, independent institution offering more than 80 baccalaureate, master’s and Ph.D. degree programs in its colleges of Arts & Sciences, Aviation, Business, Engineering and Security & Intelligence. Embry-Riddle educates students at residential campuses in Daytona Beach, Fla., and Prescott, Ariz., through the Worldwide Campus with more than 125 locations in the United States, Europe, Asia and the Middle East, and through online programs. The university is a major research center, seeking solutions to real-world problems in partnership with the aerospace industry, other universities and government agencies. For more information, visit erau.edu, follow us on Twitter (@EmbryRiddle) and facebook.com/EmbryRiddleUniversity, and find expert videos at YouTube.com/EmbryRiddleUniv.