For those new on campus, the week before finals, better known as “dead week,” is a phenomenon where the semester dies down and many students devote their free time to studying.
During dead week — and the anticipation of finals week — some students report higher stress levels, making campus feel like a “Twilight Zone.”
Heading into this semester’s dead week, here are some suggestions and strategies that can help you minimize stress and to maintain and protect your mental health.
First, strike a balance between schoolwork and self-care. Maintaining a good work-life balance is always difficult, but especially so when students try to cram all of their last-minute studies into a week.
“People are going to be studying for hours on end and it can be so easy to say, ‘it’s only one week or it’s only four days. I’m going to put aside my sleep. I’m going to put aside eating healthy things. I’m going to put aside XYZ.’ And I’m not saying ditch your schoolwork to go take care of yourself, but there’s absolutely a balance between the two,” Abby Portolese, PAX (Mental Health Initiatives for Taylor University) campus collaboration liaison, said.
She explained the importance and value of self-care.
“(If I neglect self-care,) I’m not going to perform at my best and I’m not going to remember anything,” Portolese said.
Second, remember that self-care is different for each person.
Ideas include journaling, working on a hobby, reading, exercising, grabbing a milkshake, listening to a worship song and using breathing techniques. Some people may benefit from getting up early to work out or shower, whereas for others, carving out the time for this may cause more stress.
“Make sure you’re taking care of yourself even when you’re stressed and have a lot of projects, still eat healthy foods, get up and move every once in a while and sleep enough,” Emily Kornelson, PAX cabinet secretary, said.
Self-care doesn’t have to take a long time. By using the healthy routines that you already have in place or taking short ten-minute breaks, you can refocus and calm your mind while taking care of your body’s physical needs.
Third, use the resources around you. PAs and DAs want to help you do your best and help you succeed. Talk about what you are going through with friends and peers.
It’s important not to isolate yourself and to seek help when you need it. Enjoy the benefits that the fellowship of the Taylor community has to offer.
To encourage students and help minimize stress on campus, the Counseling Center will host different events throughout dead week to help students de-stress and take a break from studying.
In the past, activities have included Santa Paws where students were able to spend time with puppies, hot chocolate stations, a Santa’s workshop with cookie-making and a day of yoga.
Finally, focus on the big picture. While it’s important to put in the work and prepare for exams, don’t equate exam week to your entire college experience.
“Something to remember is don’t put all of your identity into one exam,” Craig Cochran, director of the Counseling Center, said. “There are many more opportunities you’ll have to grow from. [Students can think] ‘Maybe I didn’t put as much time as I should have for this one. Next time I’m going to prepare better.’ That’s a big thing that a lot of students get caught up on.”
Dead week and finals week can be hard and stressful, but by taking control of our thoughts and practices, we can take proactive steps to do well in exams and take care of our mental health.