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Coping with stress during finals

Updated: Feb 1, 2020

It's the end of the semester and Christmas is right around the corner. There's just one problem; you have to study for your finals.

The final week of a semester is stressful as students worry about their grades and the last

exam and/or project they have to complete before they finally finish the class. Valid reasons exist to be anxious about finals. For example, if a student fails a class, he or she will have to retake it. However, classes are usually failed because of how the student performed the whole semester, not just because the student failed the final.

But, the added stress can have a negative effect on students and their mental health.

Stress psychologically impacts people in many ways. Linda G. Castillo and Seth J. Schwartz, professors from Texas A&M University and the University of Miami, wrote in a 2013 article on the mental health of college students, that the data they collected shows an increase of students seeking psychological services, taking psychotropic medication, and students reporting mental illnesses over the past decade. This shows the pressure placed on college students in general.

Students seem to suffer more from mental stress during finals week. Dr. Gordon MacKinnon, professor of psychology and director of RU’s Department of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences, said one of the main reasons that students worry about finals is because they believe that it will determine if they pass or not, and that "the anxiety generated by the concerns about grades has been increasing in recent years.” He cited a 2015 study of more than 2,000 college seniors at several college campuses in the U.S. that found that the fear of lower grades and eventual job market failure are major factors in exam stress and anxiety, he said.

MacKinnon says students need to manage their stress over finals week so that the stress does not become overwhelming. "When someone experiences a sense of stress, it often has to do with a negative perception that they won’t be able to finish assignments and/or pass their exams. It is a belief that you won’t be successful,” he said.

When it comes to finals week, the best advice is to be prepared and be willing to take breaks. Plan out how you are going to study and rather than trying to study all in one night, give yourself breaks to recharge mentally.



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