Hello, Gusties! All of us here at the Weekly want to wish our Gustavus community good luck during these most stressful times in the semester and also say a brief goodbye. As you may or may not already know, the Gustavian Weekly does not publish during J-Term, so you won’t be hearing from us again until the spring semester. (Of course, given that this is the last year Gustavus will be offering a J-Term, that may very well change in the future!)
To all of our dedicated readers, be you staff, student, faculty, alumni, or family member checking in via our online publication, thank you for your continued patronage of the Gustavian Weekly – we couldn’t do any of this without your support. It’s people like you that keep our presses running, and we deeply appreciate your support. So, from all of us here at the Weekly, thank you so much for reading. We’ll see you all again at the start of spring semester.
All this being said, we know that finals are an incredibly stressful time for everyone on campus. To help remedy this, the Counseling Center has been gracious enough to share some information on what stress is and how it functions, as well as some useful tips on stress management that we’d like to pass on to you!
“The stress response is hard-wired in our DNA as a way to keep us alive,” said Mental Health Therapist, Jessica Auel. “Evolutionarily, stress was the mechanism responsible for helping us outrun a lion or fight off a bear. In modern society, we don’t have the same life-or-death stressors as we used to, but our stressors are more chronic – that is, they never fully go away. Because our bodies can’t process stress at the rate it’s entering our system, the biological process aimed at helping us can actually hurt us. Managing stress well allows us to widen our window of tolerance – which means these same stressors become easier to handle and don’t feel so life-threatening.”
“As one might expect, the presence of chronic stressors make it nigh impossible to truly escape stress in our modern world, hence why chronic stress is such a big problem for the human body,” said Assistant Director of the Counseling Center, Aarron Geringer. “Specifically, it manifests when we aren’t allowed to fully process and release our emotions – fear, anger, frustration, sorrow, confusion, worry, etc. Ultimately, the goal of any stress-reduction activity is to allow our bodies time to process these emotions and release them. Crying, laughing, connecting with loved ones, physical activity, artistic expression, getting a full night’s sleep – all of these are ways that the human body releases stress.”
In light of this, here are five helpful tips from the Counseling Center to assist in reducing stress:
Tip 1: Leave dedicated times for sleep and meals in your schedule. We’re all incredibly busy humans around finals, and at times it may seem that there’s just not enough time to do everything that we need to in a day. However, neglecting food and sleep are two of the fastest ways to increase the body’s stress response, and can also lead to headaches, physical exhaustion, decreased cognitive function, and fatigue. By setting aside dedicated chunks of time for meals and sleep within your daily routine, you can keep both your body and mind sharp for finals.
Tip 2: Take regular breaks. This may seem like common sense, but scheduling breaks between assignments can help reduce stress and provide you with a fresh perspective on assignments that you may be struggling with. In particular, incorporating physical exercise into your breaks or just going outside to get some sunshine and fresh air can help increase cognitive performance.
Tip 3: Organize your tasks. If you’re anything like me, having to flip between Moodle pages and syllabi to figure out which assignments are due when and what each entails can be extremely stressful. Simply sitting down and writing out a list of what finals are due at which time, as well as what class they’re for and what each assignment requires, can be extremely useful for visualizing and compartmentalizing what still needs to be done. (Plus, it’s incredibly cathartic to check things off of a list once they’re finally done!)
Tip 4: Work in study groups. While this obviously won’t work for everybody in every situation, working in a study group can be extremely useful, especially when studying for final exams. Not only can you connect with peers and ensure you aren’t self-isolating too much, but you also have the benefit of combined knowledge and perspective. Just remember to set guidelines for your group study time and minimize distractions as much as possible.
Tip 5: Anticipate and limit distractions. Procrastination is a danger to everybody, especially during finals, and the urge to doomscroll the internet or dissociate to a favorite playlist can be incredibly hard to resist. By creating a list of potential distractions and brainstorming ways to remove or minimize them, you can ensure a far more productive work period.
As always, if you ever need to talk to somebody about your stress (or any other issue), the Gustavus Counseling Center is here to help. Starting on Monday, Dec. 11, the Counseling Center will be hosting its Walk-In Week clinic. During this week, students can call ahead or stop by to schedule a 30-minute meeting with a therapist that same day. This is an excellent opportunity for new students to get to know the Counseling Center, as well as a way for busy students to connect with the help they need and get support for the upcoming Winter Break.
From all of us here at the Weekly, best of luck on your finals, and happy holidays!