Zachariah: In the midst of finals, students need to put self-care first

Tianna Zachariah

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by the Collegian or its editorial board. 

It’s crunch time here at Colorado State University. Finals are creeping into our already frenzied and stressful lives as college students. It is around this time of year when students tend to neglect mental and physical health in the name of good grades and academic success. Now more than ever, it is crucial for students to take self-care seriously, both for the success of our academic careers as well as our personal well-being. Students should put health first this finals season to ensure success. Some ways to avoid unnecessary stress include cutting back on caffeine, getting plenty of sleep, taking breaks, and exercising.

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Excess levels of caffeine are not good for students even on a normal day, and the effects can be even more detrimental during finals. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, average Americans drink 3.1 cups of coffee per day. While caffeine can have many good health benefits, students tend to over caffeinate this time in the year. Overconsumption of caffeine can impact sleep schedules, create addictions and increase the chances of dehydration.

According to an article by Iowa State, coffee can put unnecessary stress on the body. It releases chemicals into the brain that counters your body’s natural tendency to sleep or even feel tired. This causes your body to work overtime and against its default. You’re forcing it to do something it does not want to do which makes your body and your brain work harder.

Along with the increase in caffeine, sleep is one of the first things to go in the weeks leading up to finals. Students make the trade off from sleep to continued hours of studying and think they will be better for it, when really it only does harm. Sleep helps the brain function to its highest capacity, heals the body physically, and improves overall performance when you’re awake, according to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

During sleep, our brains process the day and determine what neural pathways are important to keep and which to forget. Sleep deprivation can lead to poor decision making, mood swings and a decrease in motivation, which is the last thing students need during finals week. Sleep also keeps us healthy because it strengthens the immune system and helps us fight off infections.

In academics, personal time is synonymous with wasted time. However, taking time for yourself is healthy and can have many positive benefits. This time can be used to refresh, restore and build yourself up so that you can be more productive.

Studies have shown that the more time spent on a single activity, the more unproductive you become.

Our brains lose focus, become distracted and work against us. Taking small breaks during an activity can prolong attention and keep productivity constant throughout the entirety of the activity, according to a study done by a professor at the University of Illinois. On the other hand, continually working on an activity for an hour or more with no built-in breaks results in decreased performance and lost productivity and attention.  

Finally, when we are busy, one of the first things we cut out of our routine is exercise. Exercise can be so beneficial for your mental and physical health especially during high times of stress.A little as five minutes can stimulate anti-anxiety effects, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA).

We experience stress in our mind and bodies. So, if we make our body feel better, our brain will follow suit and stress will decrease. Exercise releases endorphins that act as natural painkillers. These chemicals can improve moods, boost energy and increase concentration and overall cognitive function. Finding the time to exercise is a great way to keep both your brain and body healthy while studying for finals.

Finals are notorious for keeping students up all night and caffeinated all day. The end of the semester is a stressful time, which is why we need to be more vigilant, intentional, and cautious of how we care for ourselves.

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Don’t let finals get you down this season. Remember to take care of you first. Grades mean nothing, if you aren’t around to enjoy them.

Tianna Zachariah can be reached at letters@collegian.com or online at @TZachariah20