Self-Exploration: How to deal with end of the semester​ stress

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A stress inducing image. Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

This week, I’m going to begin tackling self-care during exam times.

I know everyone with a laptop and/or a brain has opinions on how to keep yourself taken care of during stressful academic events. I also know that, had I thought about doing so, I would’ve either gorged myself on other people’s opinions or avoided them completely.

But, I’m not sure what kind of person you are. And, as we are nearing the end of the spring semester, important exams pile up like car wrecks in a construction zone.

Maybe hearing something from a fellow student will help, though?

I’m in my last year of undergrad, and I’m overwhelmed with final semester responsibilities.

For me, most of the overwhelmed feeling comes from the exams themselves – I tend to be fairly focused on one thing at a time, so my schedule isn’t teetering with several different activities so much as it is completely focused on rest, exam study and this semester’s coursework.

One of the things I’ve really come to understand deeply about myself through college stress is how much I don’t know and will not process at this time.

Yes, this realization is normally associated with panic and anxiety – rightfully so.

I don’t mean it in a disparaging or despairing way. I’ve come to accept that I have my limits for the tasks at hand, how much information I can retain before deadlines and how much I am reliant upon the progress I’ve made since my time as a first-year.

There is a limit to how much I can study. This limit was largely ignored until now.

So much of the academic setting thrives upon students stretching themselves wafer-thin while professors stack responsibility on responsibility, carelessly neglecting their health.

So much of the academic setting also has various nuances to this situation beyond the aforementioned example.

What neither party frequently acknowledges is that there is a limit to what can be expected of the student. Sure, we don’t need every professor bluntly stating respect for our limits, but wouldn’t it be nice?

I think that growth within the student body, especially at Jewell – our Critical Thinking College – ought to include a sense of self-knowledge, the encouragement of students to know themselves, not just life’s hard questions.

Of course, adults will roll their eyes at the mere suggestion of teaching students something as trite as personal as self-knowledge. What a wimpy, melted snowflake!

However, I believe that in order to push the limits of what we do know and how we think and approach issues, we need to be more acquainted with ourselves as humans. Humans with imperfections and limits.

I don’t cram for my exams as much as I used to. I know that part of this is due to the nature of my exams; however, the moments of forced calm before the storm are bizarre.

I am very much the type of person to over-study, to try and overcompensate for my goldfish memory – the very opposite of a Godsend when it comes to exams relying upon memorization.

So, on the recent nights before my exams, I know that I have done enough studying. I will not retain more – I am not the sort of person that can retain information well like that.

It is nearly impossible to fully discover, in our current academic setting, whether the studying choices we make are totally informed by knowing how to take care of ourselves or by years and years of learning how to perform for tests, how to cram knowledge and hope for the best.

We will never truly know because we have been entrenched in an academic cultural setting that prizes student suffering – the normalization of all-nighters, barely eating, barely sleeping.

For me, one of the most helpful steps to counteract this training has been acknowledging my limits.

There’s only so much I will be able to retain for my exams.

There’s only so much you will be able to retain.

Try not to get bogged down in moralizing, debating whether this is good or bad.

Sometimes, things exist without clear indications of right or wrong. Sometimes, we need to listen to our bodies about what behaviors we have normalized.

In this season of stressful exams, papers, presentations, etc., remember your limits. Acknowledge them, and do the best you can.

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