Coping with exam week stress
Having a game plan around these three times of year is important (although, you can use these skills at any point in time). You are probably experiencing the end-of-the-term "crunch time," when it seems like there is a test and paper due for every class.
Here are some tips to help lower your stress level during exam week:
- Exercise. Exercising will help you decrease your stress level, making your studying more productive. Even if you feel you don't have the time, dedicate 30 minutes to exercising each day. You will feel much better in the long run.
- Eat smart. You may feel like you don't have time to do this, but eating pizza and wings every night because you feel like you are too busy to eat properly is not a good idea. A well-balanced diet gives you the energy you need to study effectively.
- Set your priorities. Decide which work needs to get done when. Make sure that you are not doing all of your "easy" work first, neglecting the class that you have been struggling in all semester.
- Be realistic in establishing your goals. Setting goals that are out of reach will only upset you at the end of the day. You are better off setting a realistic goal and working towards that. Once you have reached it, reward yourself by relaxing for a bit before moving on and getting more work done.
- Take breaks. It is important to take a five- to ten-minute break every hour. This will increase the effectiveness of your studying. Going outside for some fresh air is a fine idea, but make sure you do not get involved in something that will take longer, like instant messaging or a television show.
- Study where you know you will be effective. If you know you cannot study in your room, then find a place that works for you, such as the library or the Campus Center.
- Listen to your body. If you are experiencing headaches and/or stomach aches, you need to change the way you are studying for a while. These are signs of stress. Take a few minutes away from your work...take a short nap, have something to eat, or try some relaxation exercises.
- Plan to do something fun when your exams are over. Set up a time to meet friends for dinner and a movie. You've worked hard....it's time to reward yourself!
How to tell if a friend needs assistance
There may be some times when you are feeling concerned about a friend. We've put together the following list of signs that you can look for that might indicate your friend needs some assistance.
- Becoming either overly quiet and withdrawn or overly aggressive
- Having difficulty sleeping or sleeping all the time
- Increased use of alcohol and/or other drugs
- Apathy or a loss of interest in activities that were once enjoyed
- Mood swings such as unprovoked anger and hostility, or unexplained crying
- Lack of personal hygiene
- Noticeable weight increase or loss
- Deterioration in physical appearance
- Lack of energy for extended periods of time
- Loss of appetite for extended periods of time
- Overly unhappy or discouraged attitude
- Irritability or constant anxiety
- Threatening people or property
- Depressed mood
Other factors to consider
- Any talk of suicide! This includes any IM statements or e-mail messages with talk of suicide or finality in them.
- Preoccupation with death
- Statements of distress, family problems, etc.
- Giving away personal belongings
- Statements indicative of saying goodbye
- Self injurious behavior, such cuts on their arms
Here are some tips to assist you in dealing with a friend that may need help:
- Talk to your friend alone when you have time for a long conversation. Most friends will be willing to talk, but won't come forward because they feel they are burdening people with their problems.
- Use "I" statements to tell your friend what you have observed. For example, use statements such as "I am concerned..." or "I have noticed that...." (Don't use "you" statements, as these may sound accusatory or judgmental to your friend.)
- Be supportive, compassionate, and respectful of your friend's feelings. Listen to what they are saying. Try not to interrupt them, and don't offer opinions unless they ask you.
- Turn off all possible distractions, such as your stereo, TV, and cell phone! You need to give your friend your undivided attention.
- Validate your friend's feelings. Give them small signs that you understand and are listening. Nod your head or paraphrase what they have said. Do not minimize what the person is going through.
- Listen to see if your friend is asking for your assistance in solving the problem. If not, just serve as a listening ear. If they are asking for your help, assist them in developing a plan of action.
- Know your limitations. If you feel that you are overwhelmed or uncomfortable, tell your friend that you think they should talk with someone in a professional role. Contact the Counseling Center (388-6161) with your friend. If we are not the right office, we will help you figure out which office is the best resource. If the Counseling Center is the best option, offer to come in with your friend.
- If there is any talk of suicide or threats against others while you are talking to your friend, contact the Counseling Center or Public Safety (911 or 388-6911) immediately.
Remember to take care of yourself. Helping a friend can be very stressful sometimes, and you need take care of your own mental health needs as well. If you begin to feel overwhelmed, you are welcome to visit the Counseling Center to discuss your own issues and needs.
Resident Assistants/Head Resident Assistants/Minerva Mentors
Residence hall staff members are often called upon to assist in situations that residents see as very important. Sometimes this can be difficult, because you are serving many roles: that of a student, RA/PAL, social individual, among others.
Below are some strategies that might help in your position:
- Be approachable/Show you care
If residents see you as accessible and approachable, they will be more likely to come to you when they are having difficulty. They are more likely to use you as a resource if you have a visible presence in the residence hall, are available in your room (with an open door), and are present at meals. The way you choose to interact with residents on a day-to-day basis indicates your willingness to help one of your residents in a time of need. By showing your residents that you are accessible, you are showing them that you care. Taking the time to knock on a resident's door who appears to be isolated and does not have many friends communicates concern and interest and establishes a basis for future contact.
- Stay Alert
Try to be alert to changes in the residence hall, such as how your residents are feeling, signs of unhappiness or stress, and/or changes in living patterns. For example, a resident who has not been sleeping well, eating, or taking care of their hygiene may be demonstrating that they may need help. If you notice significant changes in habits or appearance, remember that there are plenty of people to discuss your observations with (your RD, Area coordinator, a psychologist at the Counseling Center) or you can talk with the resident. If a roommate or another resident reports a problem, it is best to follow up with the resident themselves. Doing so lets the resident know that you, as well as other people care about them, which will help them in facing a difficult time.
- Try to Understand the Issue
Residents may come to you with a clear idea of what is bothering them. They may be failing an exam, thinking of transferring, or having a personal problem. Many students at Rensselaer feel that they do not belong here, feeling that they are at the 'bottom of the heap' compared to their peers. Seniors may be concerned about what will happen to them after they graduate. Sometimes these issues are easier to deal with because the student is clear in what is bothering them. Sometimes students are not sure what is bothering them. They may present to you with a 'feeling' such as 'feeling blue,' feeling anxious, lonely, or bored. Try to get the student to elaborate on the feeling, and if possible give specific complaints. This will help you (and the student) get a better understanding of what they are feeling. If possible, try to get the student to identify why they feel they way they do. Again, this helps to clarify their feelings.
- See Each Problem as Unique
Remember that each person and problem is unique. Even though similar issues present themselves, the way they are manifested and dealt with are much different. Listen to what the resident is experiencing and go from there.
- Remember You Are Not Alone
Feel free to contact the Counseling Center at any point in time at 388-6161. Sometimes students may present to you with a problem you are uncomfortable with or are not sure how to handle. We will gladly consult with you on these issues or help you in making the referral.