The end of the semester is always a time of anxiety and exhaustion for students. Oftentimes, as courses wrap up the work only gets more intense. One way many Gusties blow off steam and focus on something other than finals is by exercising. Working out is a common method of relieving stress, but this year has seen access to fitness become a serious challenge. Nonetheless, keeping a healthy body and healthy mind during finals is as important as ever.
“During finals week, I feel incredibly stressed which I’m sure many other students can relate to. With the semester wrapping up, all of the big projects, papers, and exams are happening at the same time and there is a lot to try and tackle. I always find myself prepping for long nights spent typing away on my laptop and downing too many cups of coffee to try and finish everything up,” Junior Peer Assistant Shae Archambault said.
With the seemingly endless hours of hard work students endure it’s no wonder stress is often at record-high levels during finals. There are resources available however. The Peer Assistants are just one campus organization aimed at helping students through stress.
“Students are normally per stressed when it comes to finals times This is typically a time where students are just generally overwhelmed with everything that needs to be accomplished. The Peer Assistants traditionally host different events aimed at stress-relief and mental health during this time of the semester. Obviously with COVID, this looks a little different but PAs are all still available through online office hours and appointments if a student wants to chat,” Archambault said.
COVID has made events such as the Peer Assistants’ Pause for Paws and De-Stress Fest impossible to host. With the Lund Center closing due to spiking cases in Minnesota, students lost access to a place many used to relieve stress. Despite gyms being closed, physical activity is still possible.
“While it’s always important to take care of yourself physically and mentally, during times of stress it becomes even more critical. Because we know that finals week is often a high-stress time for many, it is essential for Gusties to actively engage in productive methods for managing stress,” Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students JoNes VanHecke said.
Gustavus Administration acknowledged the importance of students remaining active despite gyms being closed state-wide. In order to offer students encouragement to stay fit, staff worked together to plan virtual workouts.
“I certainly understand the importance of complying with Governor Walz’s executive order, but it was tough to think about having to close Lund during our last weeks of the semester. That led me to engage with the President’s Cabinet in a discussion about alternatives, which in turn, led the President to consult with Athletic Director Tom Brown. Tom asked members of the Athletic Training Department to put together some great options for students in place of workouts in Lund,” VanHecke said.
Due to dramatically increasing cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota, Governor Tim Walz announced the temporary closure of establishments such as bars, restaurants, and gyms. This included the Gustavus Campus’ own Lund Center. After Lund closed down for the remainder of the semester on November 20, Gusties had to start thinking about alternative workouts.
“Gustavus Athletics Departments already use the app TrainHeroic to plan and implement team workouts, so over Thanksgiving weekend, a body-weight workout plan was created for all Gusties to access between now and the start of January Term,” VanHecke said.
In addition to these workouts, students can also access instructional yoga videos made by Gustavus athletic trainers Troy Banse and Lexie Eggert. By offering these workouts, Gustavus administrators are hoping to help keep students mentally and physically healthy.
“Keeping our mental health in check is very important, because stress is one of the most common underlying factors that can intensify symptoms of mental health issues. Additionally, a lot of factors that cause stress are largely out of our control with things like a global pandemic or what exams or projects are assigned to us during finals week. What is in our control, though, is how we engage in self-care to enhance our resiliency towards stress,” Gustavus Counseling Center Therapist Aaron Geringer said.
Self-care and mindfulness are important aspects of maintaining a good mental state through even the toughest of stressors. Finals week may be one of the most stressful times in a young student’s life.
“I often recommend physical activity, particularly to help students manage stress, anxiety, and depression. Yoga is an excellent form of exercise that also doubles as a meditative activity. A lot of our stress can come from being disconnected with the present moment. We are stuck dwelling in the past or worrying about the future and are not connected with positive experiences which are only possible in the here and now. Yoga is a great way to connect ourselves with the present moment and take a break from stress,” Geringer said.
Much of a student’s stress during finals week comes from dreading an upcoming exam, or worrying about the outcome of a previous one. Keeping our minds in the present by practicing yoga or working out is important to balancing the stress of finals.
Focusing on self-care is more important than ever during finals week. Despite the closure of gyms state-wide, working out is still an option for students looking to blow off steam. Gustavus and its administrators are encouraging students to stay active during these trying times. Campus resources such as the Peer Assistants and Counseling Center are available to help those looking to manage their stress at the end of the semester.