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One for My College Students: The Stress of Finals

One of the things that I’ve noticed in my time working with college students as both a minster and baseball coach is that the mid-term finals are one of the most stressful periods in a student’s year.  Mid-term finals seem to be even more stressful than spring semester finals.  I’m not sure if it’s the weather (though here in Texas that just alternates between being 85 and 95 degrees) or the fact that by the spring everyone is just so relieved to be moving into another summer that stress, while still present, gets a bit lost in the excitement of the upcoming trips, jobs, and breaks.  That said, it’s my fear that we don’t pay enough attention to the stress that college students are under during this period.  I believe these students are under an unprecedented amount of stress that is derived from a flooded job market, an uncertain economy, and mobility that at any time could move someone else looking for a job in or take you hundreds of miles from where you ever thought you’d be.

So here’s one for all of my college students out there. For those that don’t know me-and I’m hoping this reaches a lot of you-I use the possessive pronoun often when referring to groups that I feel drawn in ministry to. 

The College Student’s Guide to Mental Health during December Finals

  1. Remember to breathe. I’m not talking about just exhaling and inhaling.  If you forget to do that you’ve got much bigger problems than a test…I’m talking about stepping away from the book, the tablet, the computer, and the notes.  It may take the form of a few deep breaths, a trip for food, or a jog around the campus.  I calling these breaks “taking a breath” because the absence of this leads us to feeling like we are drowning.  We look at all of the chapters to cover, the notes to read, the projects to do and we feel like there is too much to do in too little a time.  People that are legitimately drowning in water have a difficult time saving themselves because the panic begins to build.  Their breathing is not just hampered by the rising water, but they begin to hyperventilate in the panic.  Drowning is not just about the amount of work that we have, it’s allowing the panic and dread of the amount we have to do set in.  The end of the semester is difficult enough.  Don’t allow panic to create more of an issue.
  2. What happens when there really is too much to do? Calculus classes in college are hard…but here’s some easy college math. If you’ve got 24 hours in the day and you’ve got 36 hours of studying and preparation to do then you’ve got a problem.  So use your resources wisely.  Take an honest evaluation where you stand, what you need to know, and how best to accomplish this.  Evaluating usually takes place for several different classes at once.  We have to prioritize which class comes first, which chapters are most important, and how to go about understanding that material.  Here’s a fun fact: if you’ve put in the work all semester, more than likely you understand enough of the material to do just fine.  So study hard, but relax.  If you haven’t put the work in for the semester you probably aren’t going to learn cover to cover of that over-priced textbook in the next 18 hours, so prioritize. What did the professor say was very important? What chapters did the class spend the most time on? What topics do the study guides spend a lot of time on?  If you have to ask for directions to your class at this point in the semester we may have a bigger problem…
  3. Know that you are much more than a grade. I’ve been there.  “If I don’t make an A then I’m never going to…” “If I make a C then they’ll never…” “If I don’t do well on the final then this has all been a waste of time.”  Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that the letter grade that pops up next to your name at the end of the semester determines or even affects who you are.  Grades may sometimes mean that plans need to be altered, but being able to make adjustments is a part of life.  Your value is based on who you are as a friend, how you respond to difficult situations, and who you were created to be.  We can look at verse after verse in the Bible that talks about God creating and forming us beginning with before we were born and continuing through our life.  Psalm 139 says God formed the very seat of our emotions and thoughts and that we are wonderfully made.  God tells Jeremiah in Jeremiah 1 that he was known before he was born and was already dedicated to the purpose that God had for him.  Both Jeremiah and Isaiah refer to God as the potter who molds the clay and shapes it to give it form.

 

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