6 Healthy Ways to Reduce Stress During Final Exams

Rachel O'Conner
Rachel O'Conner

Any college student can tell you that final exams are stress-inducing. But as you look around a college campus during college exams, you’re likely to see the effects of that stress in action. Even students who previously seemed to be carefree are showing signs of anxiety and sleep deprivation. Stress can manifest with physical and mental symptoms, so it’s important to incorporate some healthy coping mechanisms.

Keep your body and mind balanced and ready to tackle those exams with these 6 healthy ways to reduce stress during final exams.

1. Unplug from social media

In an age of social media, it can be extremely difficult to focus on one thing for any length of time. But one major problem with social media is that it’s a significant time drain. You don’t need a scientific study to prove that you lose track of time when scrolling through your newsfeed. You probably experience this daily. Social media is one of the major distractions that tempt us all.

But what you may not realize is that this particular distraction may be adding to your stress level instead of detracting from it.

A Civic Science study found that social media users are 14 percent more likely than non-users to characterize their lives as “somewhat stressful.”  When you think about how likely you are to compare your life with others on social media, it makes perfect sense. But when you’re already feeling anxious, it’s a good idea to remove a potentially stress-inducing distraction.

When you’re studying for finals (or during any other stressful time), try to avoid social media for as long as possible. Maybe set a rule that you can only open those apps at a certain time of day to avoid undesirable outcomes like losing productivity and increasing stress.

2. Focus on time management

If you’re like most people, your stress levels are closely tied to your perception of time. When your to-do list seems impossible in a given timetable, your stress levels are likely to skyrocket. After all, you seem to be facing impossible odds.

This is where time management comes in. With effective time management skills, you can make the most of whatever time you do have.

Before it’s even time to start studying, create a study timetable. If possible, plan up to a month in advance. This will take all guesswork away.

And if you need more help than a calendar can offer, consider downloading a time management app like Pomodoro or 30/30.

3. Sleep well

Whenever you feel like you’re being pulled in different directions, sleep is usually the first thing to go. Sleep has a very strong relationship with stress, but let’s just say “it’s complicated.” Stress can lead to insomnia, and lack of sleep can increase stress levels.

The answer is simple in theory, but it can be difficult in practice: Get more sleep to reduce stress.

To ensure your body is primed for sleep, avoid drinking to relieve stress. Alcohol may help you get to sleep, but you won’t feel as rested in the morning.

Avoid caffeine in the afternoon or evening hours and stay away from “study drugs.” You may think these stimulants give you more time to study, but when you sacrifice sleep, you’ll probably heighten stress.

4. Make time for exercise

You may not have an hour to hit the gym every day, but if you can take a 10-minute walk, you can get some major stress-relieving benefits.

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA), a 10-minute walk may relieve as much stress as 45-minutes of rigorous exercise.

A walk may also help you clear your mind and refocus so that you can get a fresh look at the topic at hand.

5. Practice breathing exercises

When you’re feeling stressed, people will often tell you to step away from what you’re doing. But what if you already did that? What if you don’t have that kind of time to spare? Sometimes, walking away from your studies can cause even more stress as you worry about the looming deadline.

But there is one thing you can do to reduce stress levels at the moment. Practice breathing slowly as you focus on your breath.

6. Talk to someone

If you’re feeling the stress that comes along with final exams, there’s one thing for certain: You are not alone. When you’re feeling like stress is getting the best of you, stop and talk to someone. The odds are good that the chat will help improve your focus. But even if it doesn’t, your mental health is more important than a grade.

Some stress may be unavoidable during finals, but with some healthy coping mechanisms and a good support network, you will get through this. Keep your eye on the light at the end of the tunnel.