Opinion: Avoid burn-out and study better by practicing self-care during finals week

Summer break is just within reach, but between Liberty University students and freedom lies the dreaded, stressful week of finals.

Final projects pile up, study guides clamor to be filled and students flood any location on campus providing coffee. 

With the end in sight, it is tempting for students to muscle through to the end, skipping sleep and meals in the hopes of a better grade. As good of a plan as that may sound, it is a much better idea to rest and practice self-care.

According to an article on the National Alliance of Mental Illness’s (NAMI) website, making sure to take care of yourself better enables you to take care of the people around you. The article used the analogy of an oxygen mask on an airplane — each passenger must secure their own before helping others, otherwise both people may end up gasping for oxygen.

It makes sense that the same is true for students studying for finals — if students are not taking care of themselves, how can they give their best to their work?

Kaitlyn Becker Johnson| Liberty News Service
PUPPY LOVE — Students practice self care by petting a therapy dog during Liberty’s De-Stress Fest.

Stress obviously affects mental health, driving students toward anxiety and mental breakdowns, but it also affects students’ physical health. The NAMI article lists headaches, low energy, an upset stomach, aches, pains, tense muscles and insomnia as physical effects of stress. 

Again, students cannot fully devote themselves to their work if all they are thinking about is how much need to get done or if their entire body aches from stress. As paradoxical as it sounds, taking a break from work and practicing self-care actually helps students succeed. 

Self-care tips abound on social media — taking a bath has reached meme status as a stereotypical form of self-care, closely followed by indulging in favorite foods or favorite childhood activities. 

While all of those can certainly be beneficial, there are others that are more basic and often more practical for college students. 

According to the NAMI article, exercising helps manage stress. Although Liberty students may not want to take time out of studying to go to the gym, taking walks around campus for a breath of fresh air, going swimming at David’s Place with friends, or playing volleyball all provide stress-relieving exercise. 

Eating well also helps with stress, according to the NAMI article. Although it might be tempting to eat pizza or Chick-fil-A for every meal during finals week, whole grains, vegetables and fresh fruit better stave off stress.

The NAMI article also said getting good sleep helps regulate stress. Although sometimes all-nighters are necessary, getting seven to nine hours of sleep per night reduces stress. Taking short naps during the day can also improve focus, so students should feel no shame about taking a break from their studies to get
some shut-eye. 

In addition, students can take a break with the de-stress opportunities Liberty provides for students at the library and elsewhere.

Although some Liberty students might be concerned that taking a break is selfish, God commands his people to rest. In fact, prayer and scripture meditation can be some of the most powerful forms of self-care because it focuses on God’s will and power rather than the panic of an exam worth 200 points. 

So next time you are tempted to cry or toss your study guide across the room, practice self-care. Take a nap, pray or pet a dog. Not only will you feel better, you will also be able to study better. 

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