How To Stay Healthy During Finals Week

December 8, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

Wellness professionals cite yoga as a great form of relaxation and holistic fitness. ((Photo courtesy of

Wellness professionals cite yoga as a great form of relaxation and holistic fitness. ((Photo courtesy of

Elizabeth Lowe

Students pack the tables and desks of Fondren Library, pouring over course materials before due dates and exams. Many carry cups of Starbucks or cans of energy drinks preparing for long days and late nights.
Feelings of stress, anxiety, and in some cases, pure panic linger throughout campus. All-nighters and late night food runs become the norm as students push themselves through the next two weeks.

“December means one thing for us: finals,” says SMU junior Emily Kavy.

While under the influence of finals, most students struggle to maintain healthy diets, strong immune systems, and regular exercise.

SMU wellness professionals share their finals health advice for students to stay on their A-game, even under stressful academic demands. From fitness, nutrition, and clinic perspectives, experts equip students with tips to combat stress, bulge, and illness during finals.

Work Out to Get the Blood Flowing

The Dedman Center sees a significant decline in traffic during final class days. Brook Jimenez, Assistant Director of Fitness at Dedman, explains that students are busy studying and rarely find the time or energy to trek to the gym.

By the same token, Jimenez is a fitness specialist who believes in the power of a good workout.

“When you exercise, you’re supplying lots of oxygen rich blood throughout the body, especially to the brain,” Jimenez said. This extra blood flow and oxygen aids mental focus.

Although students’ schedules are tight, she recommends students aim for early morning workouts at lower intensities. After sleep, the body has been dormant and could use a jump-start.

She suggests students bring study material and power walk on the treadmills. Research shows that a little movement is better than none. For a more intense workout that still utilizes study time, Jimenez recommends that students use the stair- climbing machine while reading over their notes.

Staying Healthy: Protect the immune system

Along with exercise, professionals advise students to work to maintain a healthy immune system in order to avoid sick days or a post-finals crash.

Memorial Health Center Co-Director of Nursing, Madge Earnshaw, explains that flu season is in a lull. However, the Health Center anticipates heavier traffic due to cold and flu symptoms in the next weeks.

For students to protect themselves from infectious illnesses, she suggests they make use of anti-bacterial gels when studying in crowded, circulated areas like Fondren Library.

“Just do everything your mom told you to do,” Earnshaw said.

This means get rest, drink fluids, practice hygiene, and resist partying.

Another way to build your immune system during finals is multi-vitamins with plentiful amounts of B vitamins, Zinc, and Vitamin C. Morris Brossette, Nutrition Specialist and Health Coach, says these boost immunity and battle harmful stress.

Brossette explains, “the body won’t allow you to get sick under stress” because it has gone into “fight or flight” mode.

In return, he warns students of the eventual crash after finals and probable onset of a cold if they do not take care of their immune system during stressful times.

Finals Diet: Give the body nutrients

Multi-vitamins may help boost students’ immune systems, but Brossette advises that hydration and whole foods keep the brain alert and productive.

Brossette knows students will stay awake later and will snack later than the recommended stopping time of 8 p.m. However, he argues that late-night study diets can remain healthy.

“I get it, you have to study and need to learn. Turn to fruits and veggies; there is nothing wrong with whole foods,” says Brossette.

He explains that foods like apples and oranges allow bodies to utilize energy and still provide health benefits, unlike popular bars that contain extra fillers.

Also, Brossette wants to warn students about the affects of soda and dehydration. Soda can deplete hydration from the body, leaving brain cells shriveled and slow.

“Ten percent dehydration already begins to affect brain levels and your ability to think,” he explains.

For an alternative source of caffeine, Brossette turns to green tea and small servings of coffee. Not only do they each have health benefits, but they also can be sweetened with natural sweeteners like honey to fulfill the body’s need for sugar.

Put the Books Away: Make Time for sleep

The right diet and exercise routine gives students’ bodies energy for stressful finals weeks, but all three professionals agree that nothing beats a good night’s sleep.

Study at UC Berkley found average hours of sleep per week directly correlated with students’ GPA’s.

Study at UC Berkley found average hours of sleep per week directly correlated with students’ GPA’s.

Specialists at Dedman and at the Health Center say students should not expect all-nighters, but should spread out their studying with time for sleep and relaxation. They explain that without time to restore, the brain cannot function efficiently or affectively.

Jimenez also said lack of sleep leads to higher levels of cortisol, a stress hormone stored in around the stomach. Higher levels of cortisol means less brainpower and more stored fat the middle.

“This is a problem,” says Jimenez. “Students are not exercising or sleeping, but they still eat holiday and late-night food this time of year.”

Plenty of sleep, as specialists explained, affects the top wellness concerns of students: stress levels, weight gain, low energy, and physical illness.

Overall, professionals agree that holistic health boosts performance more than any energy drink or all-nighter. Before students schedule extensive library sessions and trips to 7-Eleven, wellness specialists hope they will opt for more sleep and a multi-vitamin to succeed in finals instead.

Recharge Before Finals

December 8, 2009 by · Comments Off 

By Sarah Benchaita

Finals are now here, and while we all may think we know the best way to stay on top of exams, sometimes the stress of studying can make us fall short.

The Hegi Family Career Development Center has come up with one way to help frazzled SMU students.

Starting on Monday, Dec. 7 through Dec. 9 the Hegi Career Center will offer free energy bars to all students. Also, any student who stops by can register for the chance to win an iPod nano.

“At this time of year, we always see students who are feeling the stress and pressure of upcoming finals and the wind-down of the semester. We want to help provide an extra boost to students and let them know the Hegi Family Career Development Center is here for them,” says Assistant Director Caryn Statman.

Along with a free snack, students can pick up study statistics and information about the center’s services.

“Winter Break is also a great time to work on a job or internship search, so this event lets students know where we are and how we can help them once they are done with their finals,” Statman said. “Hopefully this small gesture lets them know they have a lot of support on campus during this stressful time.”

The Hegi Family Career Development Center will be hosting the event daily from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. through Wednesday. For more information, students are encouraged to visit the center’s website.

Managing Test Anxiety

December 7, 2009 by · Comments Off 

By Diana Nolacea

Final exams are just around the corner and the mere thought of them brings some students a sudden urge of anxiety, nervousness or stress.

The SMU Health Center is aware that this is an issue on campus, and to help alleviate students of final exam distress they held a workshop, Managing Test Anxiety, in the Counseling and Psychiatric Services department Thursday afternoon.

Amanda Moates, a psychology intern that will graduate with her Ph. D. next summer, works in the health center. She presented techniques and advice for students on how to cope with anxiety.

She encourages students who may suffer from test anxiety to visit the health center.

“Students can expect a supportive therapist,” she says.

Moates see around 13 patients in an average week with sessions lasting anywhere from 30 to 45 minutes.

Test Anxiety Symptoms

Moates presetented four types of symptoms; physical, emotional, cognitive and behavioral symptoms that affect people.

Students who suffer from physical symptoms may have headaches, nausea, dryness of the mouth and a rapid heart beat before or during an exam.

When undergoing emotional symptoms a student my feel panic, express their fear, feel anger or sometimes cry.

Cognitive symptoms may lead a student to have racing thoughts, the “going blank”, and difficulty concentrating, and remembering the answer to an exam question after turning the test in.

Managing Test Anxiety

Moates also explained ways that students can manage test anxiety before and during and exam.

She recommends that students eat a sensible breakfast an also watch their caffeine intake. Sometimes the caffeine will trigger the jitters even in students who are regularly accustomed to drinking caffeine.

During the exam she advises that students read the directions twice, look over the entire exam, and begin with the easiest portion first.

There are also relaxation techniques that students can practice during an exam to calm themselves, such as taking deep breaths.

Yet, some students occasionally take deep breaths and end up in taking large amounts of oxygen that can make them light headed or dizzy. To avoid that, students can cover up one nostril and try to breath at a normal rate. Cognitive techniques will also help a student.

Refraining from negative thoughts is difficult during exam week, but making the effort to change your mind set to be positive can help a student relax.

Memorial Health Center Services

The services at the health center are available year-round and free of charge.

“I didn’t know that other students are going through the same thing I am. It’s good to know that there is help,” Claudia Hernandez, a junior at SMU, said.

Hernandez decided to attend the session after receiving an e-mail early this week. She found the information helpful and plans to take the advice and try out the techniques.

Dr. Bailey has been at SMU for over 20 years and mostly she sees the center busier during October, November and February, March, and April in the spring semester.

“For the size of this university we have a great number of resources,” she said.

When students begin treatment, they are never limited on the amount of visits they can make to the center.

Click here For more information on the SMU health center services or call 214-768-2141.

Campus News Blog: Reducing Stress During Finals

December 5, 2009 by · 1 Comment 

Posted by Katherine Helms

Although the holiday season brings joy and happiness to many people, it often brings along much stress as well. With final exams, Christmas shopping, and constant holiday parties, it can be challenging to balance everything that needs to be done without becoming stressed.

Most students have one major cloud looming over their heads, exams. What steps can be taken to relax, but still be productive? First, students should plan their time wisely. The ALEC provides weekly calendars that may help you plan out your day wisely. It may help you to include little things like meal times and gym breaks.

Next, concentrate on organizing your materials. Hopefully you implemented some sort of system at the beginning of the semester to keep track of your assignments and notes. Now it is time to go back through and sort through what you need and do not need. It may help to make outlines of past tests or notes in order to understand their overall importance.

Find a place on campus where you can concentrate. This is something I have always struggled with. I know where my friends study and I am often tempted to go to the same places, but I know I will not be productive. Be creative. There are other options than just the library; this might even mean you venture off campus to find a spot that suits you.

Perhaps the most important step you can take to reduce stress is getting a sufficient amount of sleep. Without sleep you will not be as efficient in learning and remembering material. Also, be conscientious of the foods you are eating. Avocado, turkey, salmon, oranges, and almonds are several foods that will help calm your nerves, while foods like chocolate can speed up your heart rate and increase anxiety.

Finally, do something everyday to relax whether it is yoga or a walk with a good friend. Take time to separate yourself from the hustle and bustle and calm yourself down. It is a great time of the year to throw on your tennis shoes and walk to look at Christmas lights.

With two short weeks left of school, take a deep breath, devise a study schedule and dive into exams as stress free as possible.