Fighting stress during finals

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Elisabeth Neely

elisabeth neeley the daily illini Joshua Wolff, junior in LAS, studies at the Armory. There are ways to de-stress during finals week. McKinley Health Center will be giving out stress relief packs starting on Reading Day.

By George Vassilatos, Staff Writer

As the semester ends and stress levels rise, the University is continuing to encourage students to seek out campus resources.

There is a range of mindfulness classes offered on campus to equip students with strategies to ground themselves in the present. There’s also a wealth of information online that students can tap into, said Heidemarie Laurent, assistant professor of psychology.

The University also offers other activities across campus to help students manage stress.

Kerry Wen, freshman in FAA, said he found creative ways to de-stress even when he is too busy to attend University activities.

“I’m planning on sticking an hour in my schedule to chase squirrels to release stress,” Wen said. “Sometimes it’s good when you’re stressing really hard, or if you face something you can’t solve, to just do something else and come back later.”

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McKinley Health Center will also be giving out a limited number of stress relief packs starting on Reading Day. These packs contain snacks, coupons, games and various stress management tips.

“(Stress isn’t) necessarily helpful or harmful, but we can meet it in a way that’s more helpful or harmful,” Laurent said. “If you have an exam coming up and you’re approaching that as a challenge that you have the resources to be able to work with and beat, then it can lead to positive outcomes.”

Stress management can be used in many ways, but many of them are long-term behavioral strategies like having a healthy diet, getting the right amount of sleep and having a robust social support network, she said.

However, Laurent said there are also short-term strategies that can be taught.

The strategy she said she is most familiar with is mindfulness-based intervention, which revolves around focusing on oneself in the moment.

“You can use different types of things to focus attention. One very common one is the breath. Become very aware of the act of breathing, and use the breath to focus you and to bring you back to the present,” Laurent said.

One of the great things about mindful breathing is that it’s very portable, she said. People can do it while studying, during a final exam or whenever they feel worried.

“(Try) different things and (see) what is helpful for you … knowing that it may be different from what is helpful for your roommate,” Laurent said. “Optimal (ways for) coping with stress (depend) on the person.”

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