Looming like a dark cloud on the horizon, finals begin Dec. 11. Mental illness is a huge problem on campus throughout the year, and more needs to be done by the administration to improve the situation. The amount and quality of mental health resources and the ease of access to existing resources is painfully inadequate.
Typically, the most stressful time of any semester is the two weeks of finals. While I would certainly advocate for an expansion of and increased focus on mental health resources on campus, there are some strategies that I use, especially during finals, that help me to combat deteriorating mental health.
One event that I really look forward to during finals is therapy dog visits. While therapy dogs are occasionally in Swem, in the Campus Center or on the Sadler Terrace, they are on campus more frequently during finals. I love dogs, and this is one of the highlights of finals for me. Furthermore, Wesley Campus Ministry puts on an event at its house on Jamestown Road one night during finals where it brings dozens of dogs for students to pet and play with. If you are a dog lover, this can be a great, brief distraction from work that can boost your spirits.
Sleep is not for the weak, no matter how many people tell you that. My sleep schedule is certainly not ideal, but I set aside time for naps and make sure I almost always sleep at least a few hours at night. During finals it can be more difficult to get a sufficient amount of sleep and especially to maintain a good sleep schedule. It can be tempting to pull an all-nighter to get that extra couple hours of studying in, but a lot of the time sleep is the best thing to help you be refreshed for your exam. I figure out a day or two ahead of time when I want to wake up and when I want to do work so that I can try to balance sleep, work and breaks. No matter how you go about it, make sure you are sleeping to allow your body to recharge.
While I would certainly advocate for an expansion of and increased focus on mental health resources on campus, there are some strategies that I use, especially during finals, that help me to combat deteriorating mental health.
It helps me to plan week by week when I want to accomplish different tasks. This decreases my stress and allows me to get ahead so I do not feel rushed. While I do not always meet these deadlines exactly, it helps me to have a guideline to follow. I do the same thing for finals, so that tasks seem more manageable and I can adequately prepare while also allowing myself time for breaks and rest. Not everyone likes to plan ahead, but if you are stressed out by deadlines or tend to procrastinate, planning can help you make the most of the limited hours in a day and hopefully limit stress.
It can be tempting to stay in your room for days on end studying alone. However, it is refreshing to study in different places or with other people. While studying alone has value and can be very productive, sometimes it can be a welcome change to study around or with other people. There are also different options for places to study besides your room or Swem. I like to study in the Campus Center, different classrooms, Marketplace or common areas in dorms. This can prevent you from becoming a recluse, which for me intensifies depression, during finals.
It is not only important to make time for sleep, but also for breaks during the day. While everyone will have a lot to accomplish each day, set an hour or two of time aside each day to do something different that you enjoy. Whether this is spent watching a movie or television, going to a sporting event or show or exercising, these breaks can help you to rest and prepare for the next stretch of exam preparation.
I know that not all of these ideas will help every person, because everyone has different types and levels of mental health issues, but I hope that some of these options that have helped me a lot will help other people on campus. No matter how you cope, I hope that everyone on campus can remember that their mental health is important. Please prioritize your mental health during finals because it truly is more important than the exams we will be taking.
Email Kevin Richeson at firstname.lastname@example.org.