Skip to main content

UHS offers healthier ways to give it the old college try during final exams

December 5, 2011

University of Wisconsin–Madison students are preparing to do what college students have done for years as they face final exams and looming project deadlines — load up on caffeine and pull all-nighters.

Although tried, these traditions aren’t necessarily true. University Health Services (UHS) is encouraging students to try different techniques this year to combat stress, and finish the semester strong.

Make time for sleep

Burning the midnight oil may seem like a good idea, but sleep actually plays a crucial role in your ability to concentrate, learn, and recall information later.

“Getting regular and quality sleep is essential to performing at a peak level, “says Rob Sepich, UHS stress management specialist. “It restores your mind and body, strengthens your immune system, and helps you deal with stress better.”

He adds: “Eight hours is ideal, but even four to six hours is better than pulling an all-nighter. You’ll be more alert, focused and productive.”

If you are dragging during the day and crave sleep, try a power nap of 10 to 20 minutes. “Brief naps restore focus and don’t interfere much with your nighttime cycle,” says Sepich.

Tips to help students sleep can be found here.

Limit caffeine intake

Increasing the intake of caffeine to stay awake and focused can actually be counter-productive.

“Consuming too much caffeine, especially when you’re not used to it, can make it tough to concentrate,” says Sepich. “Instead, try taking a break. Bundle up and go for a walk outside, grab some hot tea or cider with a friend, or do something that is relaxing and fun for you.”

Do one task at a time

When time is tight, avoid multi-tasking for optimum concentration.

“The problem with multi-tasking is that instead of doing one thing well before moving on, we do several things poorly at once. Students should instead try clearing their work space of everything but the subject they are studying, and see if this helps maintain focus,” he says.

Other basic stress-reduction tips include:

  • Set attainable goals, striving for excellence rather than perfection. This will place less stress on you and may help you excel.
  • Aim to achieve success instead of avoiding failure, and you will more likely reach your goals.
  • Find something to laugh at, no matter how fleeting. Since final exams are already serious enough, take a break when you can to lighten your mood.
  • Work out. Lift weights or do some cardio exercises to help reduce stress-related hormones.
  • Eat for energy. Don’t go more than four hours without a snack or a meal and aim for fuel-packed foods such as whole grain breads and cereals, fruits, veggies, nuts and lean meats.
  • According to physician Andrew Weil, even a few minutes a day of breathing with your abdomen is the single best health practice you can use for stress reduction.
  • Click here to listen to or download brief relaxation exercises.
  • Ask for assistance. Turning to friends, faculty or UHS for help in coping is a sign of wisdom and strength.

To get started with UHS counseling services, stop by 333 East Campus Mall, seventh floor, any time between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., Monday through Friday. If you’d like to schedule a massage ($40), call 608-265-5600 or schedule online using MyUHS.

More UHS stress tips are available here.