Take a Deep Breath, Finals Week is Here - You Got This!

Every college semester ends with the age old tradition of exams.

Pragmatically designed to assess what students’ have learned in the past 16 weeks, finals have a notorious reputation for raising stress levels. In 2020, it’s more important than ever to take a deep breath and proceed with grace. And the one thing you absolutely can’t forget before that big exam? You know more than you think you know. If being told “just relax” doesn’t work for you, here are two tried and true ways to trick yourself into chilling out and focusing in.

Get Into Your Body:

Kinesiology Professor Whitney Ogle reminds her students that movement is medicine, especially in stressful situations.

This doesn’t have to mean strapping on your jogging shoes when you’re busy studying for a big exam.

“Remember to keep moving – even for like 10 reps or one minute of something – as you’re approaching the end of the semester,” she says. Ogle stresses that walking around the block only takes five-10 minutes.

Have a hard time closing your textbook? Try scheduling regular breaks for healthy snacks and exercise every few hours to stay productive. By scheduling each break, you won’t feel guilty when you take one.

Physical exercise isn’t the only way to get into your body. More and more people are learning that mindfulness, the practice of focusing one’s awareness on the present moment, is a powerful tool for clearing the mind. Meditation guides and yoga teachers often emphasize mindfulness with “tricks” like pressing your feet flat into the ground, relaxing your jaw, and focusing on your breath.

“Without realizing it, we often hold our breath in times of stress, which keeps us living in the fight-flight-freeze stress response,” says HSU Geography instructor and yoga teacher Laura Johnson. “Connecting to and deepening your breath can truly do wonders for balancing your nervous system–and you can do it anytime, anywhere.”

At the end of an incredibly stressful year, instructors and staff still have to wrap up the Fall semester before winter break. To manage anxiety, they are invited to a Guided Meditation virtual workshop led by Sasha Wallace on Monday, Dec. 14, and Wednesday, Dec. 16, from 5:30-6 p.m. No experience is required for the 20-30 minute Yoga Nidra style meditation, which can be done lying down. Wallace suggests having an extra blanket, sweater, or pair of socks on hand, as the body can cool down during meditation.

Register for the Zoom meeting here

Getting outdoors can reduce stress levels.

Let Nature Work Its Magic:

From the redwood forest to the Pacific, the HSU community has incredible access to fresh air, tall trees, and sandy beaches. The Department of Journalism’s Jessie Cretser-Hartenstein says that beach time has been her lifesaver this semester.

“Being near the ocean is really centering,” says Cretser-Hartenstein. “The fresh air helps clear my head and the vastness of the ocean reminds me that my own problems and stress are totally insignificant in the grand scheme of things.”

If you’re studying remotely this semester, find a patch of grass, stretch your arms to the sky, and let Mother Nature work its magic. (Just make sure to pack your mask and practice social distancing!) Want to share the scenery from your neck of the woods? Be sure to tag #humboldtstate and #finalsweek to spread the good vibes.

Want to learn more? Center Activities is hosting a virtual finals week workshop on how to Utilize Outdoor Spaces for Wellness on Monday, Dec. 14 from 6:30 – 7:15 p.m. Outdoor Recreation students will talk about how to find stress relief and meditative moments in the outdoors, and go over a few access points to the Arcata Community Forest for those living in the area.

All are welcome to join the Zoom meeting

To learn more about the therapeutic power of nature (even looking at photos of the outdoors is linked to reduced stress), checkout CAPS recommendations on nature bathing, the Japanese practice of surrounding oneself with nature for good health.

To find more resources, visit HSU’s Wellbeing Map, an interactive way to find community and tools to stay well all year long.