Exam Stress|Southern Education Desk
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|9 May, 2012|
It’s final exam time at universities across the country and students are feeling the stress.
In fact, studies point to stress as a common health complaint for students. But perhaps more important, they rate stress as the number one factor dragging down academic performance.
Students hunched over books and computers at campus libraries are a common sight this time of year.
All night study sessions, fast food and copious amounts of caffeine are the norm.
Students Cram for Finals at ULM
"I’m very tired. I don’t sleep during final, really. I think that everyone’s kind of down and gloomy because they’re tired and they haven’t slept, so…”
That’s University of Louisiana at Monroe sophomore biology major, Baylie Churchwell. She says that finals have thrown a major curve into her sleep patterns.
“Exams are very stressful. Like you stay up all night studying for a test and you study all this stuff, and only like 50 questions are going to be on the test and you’ve studied 300 questions worth of information. And so it’s very stressful because you don’t know necessarily know what to know most.”
Exam Stress Hurts Performance
A Princeton Review Study found that 85 percent of students experience increased stress at exam time. And a 2010 study by the American College Health Association found that stress was by far the leading factor that negatively affected student grades.
Russell Hollis is a counselor who helps university students. He says exam stress is hard on them.
“The students come here and they talk about how the stress tends to cause them things like excessive anxiety, depression, lack of motivation, headaches, dizziness, hyperventilation and a whole list of physical and psychological changes.”
Victoria Maxwell is a dental hygiene major. Exam stress is keeping her up nights, too.
“You don’t sleep. All I do is study. Maybe four hours a night, because I’m up, reading papers and going through notes and stuff like that most of the time.”
Maxwell says healthy eating has also been a casualty of exam week.
“You don’t have time to cook to your diet or anything. Whatever you grab, you grab. Just go with it.
Mental and Physical Health Take a Hit
Bad food and sedentary living becomes a theme during exam week. Baylie Churchwell explains.
“I don’t exercise because I’m just sitting around studying, and I eat constantly. So it’s very unhealthy, I think. Because I just sit there and eat because of stress. And I don’t get up and do anything."
End of semester worry can take serious emotional turns. English instructor, Rebecca Stephenson says that at least one of her students has taken a catastrophic view of the pressure.
“I actually had one student call in tears – so much so that I couldn’t understand who it was or what was going on – I thought someone had died; sobbing heaving, awful tears. And it finally just came down to she wasn’t going to be able to turn a paper in on time. And I really just assured the student that it was fine,” she says with a laugh.
Russell Hollis says that it’s not just the occasional student who feels overextended.
“I would say that it’s an increase with everybody across the board because so much is expected. I think what I’ve come to learn – most of the students are aware what stress is – that’s what drives them in here.”
But he says there are ways of keeping the strain at bay.
“It’s a matter of knowing where you are with stress and how you can cope in a healthy manner and managing to make some real good choices in managing that stress.”
Those choices might seem counterintuitive for students who are cramming in all night study sessions. But Hollis says that they include getting plenty of rest, exercise and avoiding junk food.
Air Date: Wed, 05/09/2012