The Facts for a Stress-Free Finals Week

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Saint Leo University’s scheduled Fall final exam week is from Tuesday, Dec. 5, until Friday, Dec. 9, which leaves ample time of over three weekdays for students to get prepared mentally and physically for a ‘stress-free finals week.’

Although this is the case, it still comes as no surprise that with finals week approaching, some students will eventually push their bodies to unhealthy limits in attempts to study for prolonged periods of time before taking exams; this can hinder their success rates. It seems that to carry out such behavior, more and more students have turned their willingness to resort to dangerous levels by illegally taking the prescription drug Adderall with expectations of an increased, highly focused study time so they can make the grades required.

The National Survey on Drug Use and Health, released in April 2011, stated that 10-15 percent of all full-time college students aged between 18-22 years use the drug Adderall when it comes to extensive workloads or more prominently during the final exam period of the semester. In comparison, this statistic was almost twice the percentage of reported usage among the same age group not attending college full-time.

Adderall, which is a psycho-stimulant made up of mixed amphetamine, is a prescription drug designed to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and is classified as a schedule II substance under the Controlled Substances Act. This designation means the drug has legitimate medical uses but has “a high potential for serious abuse.” With this in mind, it is questioned as to why exactly one in five college students who have not been diagnosed with ADHD still take the drug? The answer lies with the apparent effectiveness of the medication, which is known as a “Smart Drug,” providing students with the superhuman focus, due to an upswing in cognitive clarity, needed for marathon study or writing sessions and likewise indicating the extent of the drug’s popularity on college campuses.

The harsh reality is that unfortunately most college students who rely on Adderall to get through final exams are highly unaware of the long list of warnings that stem from the potential side effects, including fast, irregular heartbeats, increased blood pressure, severe dizziness, seizures, hallucinations, loss of appetite and insomnia. In reality, sleep deprivation, poor eating habits, cramming, and ingesting stimulants to keep awake will not improve performance on finals, and therefore other stress management devices should be adhered to.

Extensive research has shown that healthy coping mechanisms such as being prepared for exams before finals week, including notes, making outlines and creating a study schedule lead to a greater success rate.

It is also advised that students limit caffeine intake during finals week due to the stimulant nature which can make students feel more stressed. It is encouraged that enough sleep during finals week is achieved as lack of such can weaken the immune system, increasing the chance of sickness. Eating healthy during finals week will keep you energized for studying, along with getting some exercise. It is also vital that after an hour of studying, a five- to ten-minute break is undertaken to help you stay on task without getting frustrated or a headache from reading too much material at one time. All the external factors as mentioned above will help manage the stress students are faced and overwhelmed with and are critical for optimal cognitive functioning and performance when final exam dates are close by.

The Cannon Memorial library offers resources and services, which will be of major aid to students during this period. Library hours are from Sunday to Thursday 8 a.m. to 2 a.m., and Friday to Saturday from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. The library offers a tranquil yet focused environment with the staff dedicated to helping all students achieve academic excellence, and assisting with library research. Along with this, the staff is concerned about student success in finding all the information required for forthcoming exams and are committed to providing remote and traditional library services to all patrons.

Further aid is provided to students at the CAVE, which is located on the first floor of Kirk Hall, where students can meet with tutors to help them in preparing for exams.

Additionally, the University recognizes the effects of stress on students and provides counseling services which strive to aid individuals on their path toward academic, social and personal growth. The counselor’s office is located in DeChantal Hall, and their services are free to students.

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