All stressed up? Get ready to let go

GW sophomore Samantha Fish will have composed four term papers on topics from developmental biology to the music of Mozart by the end of next week. She will have juggled her last week of classes with her time-consuming job as a runway model for a local D.C. company and kicked off an intense study marathon, the mind-numbing prelude to final exams.

I’m trying to do as much as I can, she says, a bit frazzled. But I never have enough time to get everything done.

As freshman Jamie Kramer wraps up the semester to face her first final exams, she says that she doesn’t feel overwhelmed, just a bit apprehensive.

These end-of-semester projects count for a lot, so there is pressure to do it all well and still find time to study for finals, she says.

With exams less than two weeks away, many GW students say they are entering the toughest work crunch of the season and are experiencing the stress that comes with it. Some students say dealing with their workload, and in some cases just worrying about it, is robbing them of sleep and sanity.

To expect to go through this time of the school year calmly and without tension is unrealistic, says Dr. Diane DePalma, the director of the University Counseling Center. The important thing is to keep the stress at a level where it is helping you and not hurting you.

Stress can help students by focusing their energy on the tasks they must complete and motivating them to accomplish those goals eventually. But when stress is nagging instead of inspiring results, it becomes unproductive, says DePalma.

Try to change worries into actions, she says. Instead of just thinking about what you have to do, plan exactly how you will do it, and then execute the plan.

With limited time and study obligations piling up, DePalma suggests taking a few minutes to draw up a work strategy, an organization-enhancing step that will likely relieve some anxiety right away.

First, students should determine the value of each thing they need to accomplish and allot time accordingly. Built-in breaks should make the plan easier to follow.

Accept that not every single thing will get done perfectly, she says. Just focus on what you need to and move along. Be careful not to dwell and get off the schedule.

Following a good schedule includes a reasonable amount of nighttime sleep. Without it, the mind will be less alert, and studying and test taking will be more difficult, says DePalma, ultimately increasing stress and worry. Staying away from caffeine and sugar, especially in the evening, helps the body maintain regular hours comfortably.

Taking naps throughout the day, a stress-coping habit employed by many students, tends to interfere with sleep at night. So DePalma recommends physical activity, like an energizing 15-minute walk, as an energy-releasing alternative. Other relaxation techniques include imagery, deep breathing and positive thinking.

DePalma says consuming alcohol, one stress-diminishing tactic commonly employed by college students, doesn’t help as much as it can hurt.

Students might tend to drink more when they know they’re stressed out, but the effects, both during and after, will just make accomplishing goals harder, she says. Alcohol is a depressant and makes your mind slow to comprehend information even for awhile after the drunk feeling wears off, and it depletes your energy overall.

Even if stress gets the best of students this semester, they shouldn’t be discouraged, says DePalma.

Just make a promise to yourself that you will do things differently next semester, she says. And try your best to stick to it.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.