December can be a difficult time for many Alaskans. As days get shorter and darker and temperatures dip, it can be easy to fall into depressive slumps. For students this time of year can be especially difficult. The academic pressures of finishing term projects and studying for exams, as well as the additional economic and social pressures of the holiday season, can all contribute to high stress levels.
Emily Wood, a natural sciences major with an emphasis in the environmental studies, hasn’t found any techniques she would recommend to other people struggling through finals.
“I’m not sure that I have any,” Wood said. “But if anyone else does, I would love to know what they are.”
Luckily, for Wood and the many other students in the same boat, there are multiple members of the UAA community that have tips for how to both finish the semester strong and reduce the overall stress of the process.
As a professor, Kristin Ogilvie of the Department of Anthropology has two main points of advice for students as they finish up their classes.
“Review your workload and prioritize,” said Ogilvie, emphasising that it’s important for students to allocate time and energy to their areas of greatest need.
In regards to papers and term projects, Ogilvie stresses one thing.
“Don’t procrastinate… You can really see the difference in work between the students that take their time and the ones who don’t,” she said.
Danny Earll, a UAA alumnus who graduated in 2014 with a degree in psychology, has a few methods for students navigating the final week of classes. First and foremost, Earll emphasizes the importance of mental health.
“Put your own [wellbeing] as a top priority… and talk with your professors if you need extra assistance or advice,” said Earll.
In order to maximize preparation, Earll advises that students try and study in the same type of environment as that they will take their exam in. Additionally, he advises that students arrange some type of reward or celebration for themselves after finals to serve as an extra incentive to study hard.
“Do something that will reward and replenish you after finals and motivate you to keep crushing your goals,” Earll said.
Sarah Garner, the director of Student Life and Leadership at UAA, reflects on her college days and offers different advice for undergraduate and graduate students.
For undergraduate students, Garner advises students to take “planned breaks” in their study process, advice which Garner admits she did not follow herself while obtaining her bachelor’s at the University of Nebraska Lincoln.
“Take time away from either studying or final projects to let your brain chill out,” Garner said. “I was a student who would just go, go, go but could have benefited from taking breaks.”
Garner recalls often feeling “burnt out” during finals weeks while she was obtaining her undergraduate degree.
“I vividly recall going to one of my finals having not slept and just being so anxious about it,” said Garner. “But at that point there’s nothing you can do but power through it.”
For graduate students, Garner advocates for students to take pride in presenting term papers and projects the represent an entire semester of work.
“At the graduate student level, I wish I would have slowed down to enjoy that more… to be able to present work that I was proud of was a privilege,” she said. “Try not to see it as just something to get through but as something to be proud of [when] you walk away.”
To reduce and manage stress, the UAA Care team has a list of ten steps students can take summarized below:
- Begin studying prior to finals
- Limit your caffeine intake
- Eat healthy and exercise
- Get enough sleep
- Take plenty of breaks
- Steer clear of people that stress you out
- Say ‘no’ to distractions
- Stay positive
Care Team Coordinator Lisa Terwilliger recommends students check out free resources on self-care and relaxation that can be found on YouTube, like a 10-minute video on guided meditation for “Exam Revision” and another 10-minute video on “progressive relaxation for college students.”
Suzanne Snyder, an undergraduate student studying early elementary education, has just one piece of advice for students coping with stress and finals.
“Dogs,” said Snyder. “Doggos are the best thing to get me through all of the toughest times.”