Stress Solutions

Christine Guerrini

Once again, finals are rapidly approaching. Bartley will become the late-night hub for a mass of busy and eventually sleep-deprived students. And while the piles of papers for last minute studying are getting high, the stress levels are even higher. But instead of allowing the stress to get to you, why not try a few refreshing relaxation techniques?

Change your diet: Late night calls to Winger’s? Campus Corner put on speed-dial? Certainly, a common habit during exam time is the use of food to relieve stress. Although it may seem like a perfect solution — and a valiant final effort for first-year students to reach or exceed the Freshman 15 — students may actually benefit from choosing some other specific foods that contain natural stress relievers. Complex carbohydrates, nutrients such as B vitamins and vitamin C, as well as minerals like iron, folic acid and zinc have been found by countless studies to reduce stress. Some release serotonin, a chemical that enhances mood, while others have antioxidants that fight free radicals.

So put down that mound of cheese-fries and pick up a handful of almonds. Switch the normal fried chicken sandwich for a lean roast beef sandwich on whole-grain. Throw a scoop of blueberries in a bowl of fortified cereal and milk. Just a few small changes here and there can make a big difference during the drastically dwindling days in between now and finals.

Move, stretch and shake: Exercise is another excellent way to soothe some anxiety with a killer combo: the release of beta-endorphins and the ability to clear the head. But how does anyone find time to go to the gym in the midst of all this cramming? In reality, there are plenty of alternative ways to get some blood flowing without peddling on a stationary bike like it’s the last leg of the Tour de France. As little as a 10-15 minute walk around Villanova’s beautiful campus will supply a student with a relieving breath of fresh air and a low-impact cardio work-out.

Yoga is also a perfect exercise that combines benefits for the mind and body. Tense muscles are eased with slow stretching moves. At the same time, deep, controlled breathing encourages concentration and relaxing meditation. When heads begin to pound, take advantage of the nice weather and just have fun. Play football in the Quad, throw a Frisbee on Sheehan beach, score a few goals at the soccer complex on West campus. Anything that requires movement will help students’ minds and bodies get rid of some of the pressure of finals.

Get pampered: Aside from what you learned in 10th grade health class, there are countless other great relaxation techniques. In whatever amount of downtime students may allow themselves, they can treat themselves to a few of their favorite things. For some, it may be buying the newest electronics while others would prefer the latest in fashion.

Although most think of these as strictly feminine, many students of both sexes enjoy manicures, pedicures, facials and massages to refresh them inside and out. Similar to exercise, the knots of tension built up from leaning over a laptop for hours on end can be eased by the hands of a professional masseuse or even a friend who has some general knowledge of the art. There are countless options and students each have his or her idea of the perfect indulgence. Whatever it is, students can allow themselves a luxury to boost their mood when exam anxiety gets overwhelming.

Laugh out loud: If pampering themselves leaves their pockets empty, students have another fun and free alternative: the contagious wave of noise called laughter. As it outwardly expresses amusement, it simultaneously releases endorphins that further stabilize emotions. Generally, the best way to get a good laugh is through interaction with others. A group of friends can supply hilarious memories and fun adventures that lead to more chuckling.

When she needs to cope with stress, Gretchen Vollherbst seeks out old friends to get the effects a good laugh. “I call my friend from home. She makes me laugh all the time!”

While students study, they can tell jokes about anything and everything, from movies and television to original cracks about the material which they are studying. Maybe it will even help them remember some of it for once.

Take quality over quantity: Several undergraduates, including John Sturgeon, Ryan Palsho and Anthony Junod, admit that sleep or “power naps” are extremely appealing when they need to relax.

Media such as television, movies and music are also a big escape from the stress of finals. “I like to listen to my favorite bands, sometimes oldies,” Carisa Bautista said.

Creative outlets are also a helpful way to release negative stress. Painting, drawing, journaling, playing instruments, singing or even knitting can channel anxious feelings into a more productive task. These enjoyable choices are definitely better than stressing over memorizing minute details like the date of the Annexation of Puerto Rico.

During finals, students’ stress is in overdrive. The same relaxation techniques may not work for everyone. The key is finding something enjoyable and rejuvenating. Resources are available everywhere: family and friends can lend support, the Internet has a number of websites with information on stress management and the Student Health Center offers counseling services if the stress becomes overwhelming.