Some helpful tips to manage stress during exam season!

Reposted from: blogs.mtroyal.ca/mentalwellness/2015/12/02/710.

Stress is just part of going to university. No question. It seems like  it is a necessary  “co-requisite” of the whole educational program package. There is by  the  way,  an unsubstantiated rumour going around that on the very bottom of the application for admission that you signed, there is a disclaimer in very small, tiny print sayingthat ”the university  accepts nor  responsibility for any extreme amount  of stressor physical  symptoms such as recurring caffeine-induced  headaches,  or  reports of nausea,  diarrhea (sorry too much information) or other physical  manifestations of distress likely  caused from excessive studying or other onerous course demands (e.g.  group projects with uncooperative group members,  etc)." Perhaps another urban myth but we might be able to see some truth, as well as humour in this story.

The MRU semester is like the movement of a train. It’s totally stopped at the station on the first day of classes, and everything looks great for a nice train ride starting this day. But then the doors close,  everyone takes their  seat and the momentum picks up quickly.  Before you know it is mid-term time and assignment deadlines are coming at you, like the posts that seem to fly by as  you glance out the window.of a speeding  train.  By this time in the semester it is full steam ahead with sound of the engines roaring and the blaring of the horn heard a kilometer away. Everyone is usually going full out –  juggling assignments, group projects, term papers and then realizing and gasping – “OMG – final exams are only a couple ofweeks away!!” At this point – the first week of December – there is no slowing down. But  help is  on  the  way.

First action required  right  now…. 

JUST BREATHE!

So first, just“BREATHE!” That’s right,  take a deep breath in and let it out… slowly.  It's going to be okay. There are a number of things you can do to get through this.  But really now,  doyou justwant to survive? No, you want to thrive!  And  ultimately,  youwant to  seethatyou canflourish.  We  can offer some sound evidence-based  suggestions  (get   your head around this term if you have heard it before, it’s important and remember it).  What is important is to do things that work for you and engage in activities that are purposeful and intentional to help you achieve your goals. It’s about figuring out what matters most,  and seeking  out support  to help you get there.

  1. Get organized. A number of studies report that the people who are successful are also organized and this applies to university students regardless of academic discipline. Did you notice this connection with the word here“discipline”? Organized and discipline  equals higher follow-through and success rate. Let’s clear up another misconception, or myth,  getting organized  is a skill  that you can learn-it’s  not  just a genetic trait or gender controlled behavior (would be like saying“I/you can’t learn math because of my/your gender”). I still hear this at times. We can all improve at being better organized and managing our time more effectively.  But there is more– much more.
  2. Get the Tools for Success and Get Assistance. Create a specific December/April End of Semester Class and Study Schedule. If you don’t  have a template for a study schedule for the last month of the term,  and aren’t feeling creative you can see the Writing and Learning Services (T123) for this and  many  other  resources and  learning  strategies. There is still a lot you can do in the last few weeks to raise your marks and nail the best mark you can realistically achieve yet this  semester.  There is still time but you need to really get on it now! Make everyday count.  Stop/reduce doing  things that are not moving you towards your academic goals.  Reduce your  paid work hours if you can.  Even a few extra hours can make a big difference in the homestretch.
  3. The Bicycle Wheel and Knowing Your Spokes:  Think of the metaphor of a bicycle wheel. Each spoke you can bend on its own.  But with twenty-five other spokes this can provide a solid interconnected structure that can also offer incredible support and cushion “your ride” so to speak.  Imagine yourself as the hub of a bike wheel (sounds funny okay, but hear me out).  A  flashy titanium hub, strong and solid.  But the hub needs to be connected to each spoke and then to the outer  rim and tire to give  us a sense of complete connection and wholeness.  Ask  yourself who are the individual  spokes on your Wheel? Think of this as your academic and personal success wheel? Sketch-out a   picture of a bicycle wheel with the hub and spokes and wheel and let’s work with this drawing.
  4. Connections and support: No one person alone can be your sole support and meet all of your needs to be successful in university. Think of all of the different people you know in your world who can help you in different ways to achieve Academic success this semester. Are there people in your class that could be part of the fantastic study group for final exams? If so, consider each person in terms of how much they have contributing class and they have really done their homework and showed up throughout the semester. Then you might want to approach them to see if they would be willing to be part of a group where everyone would do certain degree of preparation that could be shared at regular meetings between now and the final exam. This can work very well but there needs to be real clarity and understanding about the expectations and commitment  from each person.
  5. Reach Out: Also, who are your “go to”  people? People you can reach out to for assistance to read over a paper,  talk academic things through or may have some general expertise in an area you are studying.  Could be a parent,  sibling, aunt or uncle,  or friend?  Write their names down and how to contact them (text,  call, email) also check ahead and see if they might be available for questions and support. Ask for what you need!
  6. Activities for self-care and specific exercise/recreation. If you’re feeling a heightened degree of worry or stress at times which is completely normal, make sure that you are building in activities for self-care and specific exercise routines to help you deal with some of the feelings of stress and fatigue that come with an intensive degrees of studying in a short period of time. This could be another spoke on your wheel. Write these out and identify who each spoke could be as you look at a sketched out a picture of a bicycle wheel with different spokes this can also help you have a sense of understanding that you’re not in this alone and that there are good resources that could be of help to you.
  7. Campus Resources:  Don’t hesitate to use the resources here on campus that are part of MRU student services. As the name suggests, these are services here for students (like YOU).What better time to take advantage of these great resources in Student Counseling, Health Services, Health Services andOptimal Therapies (they have great massages by the way; which can be covered by your student insurance plan). These are all located in the MRU Wellness Center at U216 (look for the big orange wall- you can’t miss it)!
  8. The Puppies Are  Coming: There are all these services and more both in the main campus and in Student Association.  There are so many activities at this time of year to help students deal with stress.  Next week, The Peer Health Educators and SAMRU are putting on there annual and ever popular event of bringing the puppies to campus for stress relief and just a  pure joyful, playful, and fun experience. Come and meet the puppies. Wow what a great time!  While this won’t get your major paper written by itself, by taking a stress break and playing with the awesome puppies,  this  can lighten everyone’s load for a while and bring back a refreshed and renewed perspective. Check it out!  Notices will be on your my MRU account as well as posters around the campus.
  9. Supports for Staff & Faculty: At the beginning of the article it spoke about stress that affects everyone including faculty and staff as the semester goes on and everyone’s workload increases dramatically. It would be remiss not to mention some resources for these important members of our community as well. There is an Employee and Family Assistance Program (EFAP) provided for all MRU staff and faculty by Homewood Human Solutions.  This can be a good place to start to look for help when things are excessively  challenging and stressful.  They offer many face-to-face (f2f) services, as well as  online counselling and resources.   There is counselling and support for   individual employees but also family members,  as we strive to find that elusive balance and also be healthy and vibrant. Human Resources also offers a number of other  wellness programs for employees
  10. Student Counselling Services: Students who wish to make an appointment with Counselling Services can drop by U216 at the Wellness Centre or call 403-440-6362. Appointmentscan we made toseecounsellors anydayoftheweek.  Some drop in time is available everyday generally between 11:00 and 1:00 p.m. Urgent cases and specifically crisis situations are seen as soon as is possible.
  11. Health Services: Students wishing to book an appointment can drop by the Wellness Center or call 403-430-6326 for an appointment to see a Physician. There are three Family Physicians and a Psychiatrist on staff along with a team of nurses and support health professionals. It may take a few days for an appointment during the busy part of the semester.

Thanks for stopping by and for reading the article. Focus on you,  and whatyouneed toaccomplish. But remember you need tocomefirstandtobehealthyandhappy.