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The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

The Student News Site of Northern Illinois University

Northern Star

Destressing before the test

Counseling and Consultation services provides stress advice during finals
Sean Reed
Freshman political science major Samantha Mostaert plays with kinetic sand at the Stress Less Zone on the first floor of the Founders Memorial Library. NIU’s Counseling and Consultation services advises students to practice destressing activities during finals week. (Sean Reed | Northern Star)

DeKALB – The words “finals are coming up” can fill students with a sense of relief that the semester is over or a sense of dread at exams that can make or break their grade.

Toward the end of the year, NIU Counseling and Consultation Services sees an increase in students coming to the office, according to Sarah Moskal, interim associate director of Student Wellness.

Moskal said after hearing interactions with students, she believes they are feeling burdened by projects and tests that come at the end of the semester. 

Raissa Berumen, a senior accounting major, said she is feeling stressed preparing for finals.

“I honestly feel really stressed out. I just, I don’t know how to explain it, but it feels like there’s so many deadlines that I have to do,” Berumen said. “I feel like I have very little time to do them. I honestly feel like I have to sacrifice so many things in order to meet those deadlines and stuff like that.”

Stress can manifest in people physically, behaviorally, cognitively and emotionally. Examples of these manifestations include muscle tensions, headaches, anxiety, depression, lack of concentration, withdrawal and more, Moskal said.

“Being aware of how your body responds to stress and doing some of those basic healthy habits,” Moskal said. “So, are you eating well? Are you getting enough sleep? Have you gotten any movement in today? Do you feel connected with yourself or with others? And if you’re answering no to any of those, start there.”

The best ways to take care of stress are to practice healthy eating habits, getting plenty of rest, physical movement and connecting with people, Moskal said.

“You want to have balanced meals. I encourage folks to have ‘colorful plates’. So fruits, veggies, greens, meats, and so forth,” Moskal said “Drinking plenty of water is a good one. And choosing foods that are more energizing, so have more long-lasting energy. Compared to a lot of sugary foods.”

It’s recommended to get seven to nine hours of sleep a night. If that is not possible, a quick power nap, even 15 to 20 minutes, can give a much needed boost in energy, Moskal said.

Performing acts of movement can be as rigorous as going to the gym or a simple walk around the campus. The important part is to do so in a way that makes you happy, Moskal said.

“I feel like often when I’m in school, I feel like I don’t really take care of myself,” Berumen said. “So I started making sure that every day I go to the gym to at least have an hour to just focus on myself and not on schoolwork.”

Joseline Farias, a senior communications major, said when her stress drains her, physically and emotionally, she attempts to get her mind off stress through exercise, sleep and time with her family.

“I like to work out just because it gets my mind off of things. That helps my mental exhaustion in a way, physically,” Farias said. “I sleep a lot, and that usually gets me out of the rut and really, just being with my family kind of helps me too.”

Practicing connection is not only spending time with friends and family that bring you joy but also connecting with yourself. A person can connect with themself by meditating, journaling or expressing themselves creatively, Moskal said.

Counseling and Consultation Services is also beginning a soft launch of Togetherall. 

Togetherall is an anonymous interactive chat board. Users can post about mental health concerns and receive feedback from peers. The site is maintained 24/7 by licensed mental health professionals to provide additional support.

“Having that peer-to-peer connection can be significantly more powerful than, well, me talking to somebody, because that peer knows exactly what you’re going through,” Moskal said.

Students can sign up for Togetherall on its website.

For students feeling overwhelmed and needing assistance, the Counseling and Consultation Services provide free mental health support including a 24/7 crisis line.

“Your success matters, but you matter too. And so it’s really important to prioritize your self-care while you’re also navigating, trying to ace your finals,” Moskal said. “When you take care of yourself, you’re then going to be more likely to do well on your finals. So your success matters, and you matter too.”

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