Nov 20, 2019
(Cary Edmondson/University photographer)

Healthy Bulldogs: Tips for end of semester survival


It’s unavoidable, especially if you’re struggling with exams and due dates during finals week.

If you’ve been tempted to complain about all that you need to do or avoid doing your work until there’s no time left to waste, you might have noticed that these strategies don’t really help.

The work remains hanging over your head; the pressure increases; and it feels like everything is going to come crashing down.

When stress is rising, you might notice changes: headaches, sleeping more or less than usual, overeating or not eating much at all. You also may feel exhausted, anxious or just not care anymore.

If this sounds like you, there’s good news. You don’t have to keep feeling this way.

These signs and symptoms of stress are indicators that our body is in fight or flight mode. Fight or flight is an adaptive reaction that protects us when we are in life or death situations.

The trouble is that looming exams and due dates can trigger the flight or fight response even though these situations are not threatening our life or may cause death, but our body doesn’t know the difference.

So if you’re in fight or flight mode and you’d like to downshift out of it, here are some options:

Try using deep-belly breathing.

When you breathe slowly and deeply into the bottom of your lungs, it causes your belly and chest to expand and activates your parasympathetic nervous system (the system that tells your body that all is well).

Deep-belly breathing releases oxytocin, which lowers the cortisol level in your body and allows your body to relax.

At the same time, if you focus your awareness on your breathing, it takes your mind away from things that are contributing to your stress and into the present moment.

That’s being mode.

Maybe you have already been there. It’s when you’re out in nature and have to stop to look at something because it’s so beautiful you can’t do anything else.

It could be when you’re so focused on a sport that you are aware only of what you are doing.

Focusing your mind on deep-belly breathing can take you there too. It’s a powerhouse of relaxation.

Another way to stop that fight or flight response is by putting your hand over the center of your chest (your heart chakra).

When you focus your awareness on the space between your hand and your heart, you’ll notice a sensation of warmth there. That’s a sign that your body is releasing oxytocin.

Stay with it and in just a few minutes you’ll be feeling good. If you couple that with deep-belly breathing, even better.

Still feeling stressed about the looming finals week and final projects?

Participate in one of the Student Health and Counseling Center’s end of semester survival training workshops. No appointment necessary, and drop-ins are welcome.

December 5 at 2 p.m.
December 6 at 9 a.m.
December 7 at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.
December 10 at 9 a.m.
December 11 at 9 a.m.
December 12 at 2 p.m.
December 13 at 9 a.m.
December 14 at 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.

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