By Niku Sedarat
As many students approach the end of their first semester of the school year, the looming final exam season may add an extra layer of challenge to an already demanding academic period. For many youth and adolescents, this period can be particularly challenging, and the winter season, with its shorter, darker days, may intensify these experiences. The emotions stirred by winter, such as heightened stress and anxiety, can exacerbate some of the pressure of final exams.
The mixture of both academic stress and the seasonal shift may lead to feelings of overwhelm, fatigue, and, in some cases, seasonal affective disorder (SAD). If you find yourself resonating with these feelings, it's crucial to recognize that you're not alone. While feeling stress or anxiety due to exams is a common experience, if these feelings become debilitating or extraneous they can take a bearing on mental well-being. It is not only important but also critical to address when these feelings start to impede mental well-being.
While a certain level of stress is normal and can even enhance performance, it's equally important to identify when stress becomes excessive and harmful. Persistent anxiety, difficulty concentrating, disruptions in sleep patterns, and physical symptoms like headaches are indicators that academic stress may be reaching unhealthy levels. Recognizing these signs is a crucial initial step toward effectively managing stress.
To navigate the challenges of the winter exam season, it's essential to prioritize and meet our most basic needs. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, a valuable psychological theory that reflects upon the necessary steps for individuals to reach their highest potential, reflects this idea, revealing that it is only once our basic and psychological needs are met that we can reach our highest potential. The ideas can be applied to the final exam season, ensuring that we can reach our academic potential while also safeguarding our mental well-being.
Ensuring a sufficient amount of sleep each night is essential. Establishing a consistent sleep routine promotes better concentration, reduces stress, and enhances performance during exams.
Nourishing your body by maintaining balanced meals and snacks and avoiding excessive reliance on caffeine can help prevent heightened anxiety and energy crashes.
Incorporating regular physical activity into your routine has proven benefits, reducing stress hormones and improving overall mood. Given the limited sunlight during winter, spending time outdoors becomes all the more critical for enhancing mood and decreasing stress.
Create a study environment that feels safe and conducive to learning. Minimize distractions, set realistic goals, and establish a study schedule to instill a sense of order and control.
Belongingness and Love Needs:
Seek support from friends, family, or classmates. Sharing concerns provides emotional support and helps to decrease feelings of loneliness.
Acknowledge achievements, no matter how small. Celebrate successes and recognize efforts to boost self-esteem. Remember that your self-worth is not tied to your academic performance.
Navigating academic stress during the winter season can feel overwhelming and emotionally taxing. But by ensuring that we establish both our basic and psychological needs, we can avoid the mentally taxing aspects of academic stress, and place ourselves on a path toward academic success and well-being. It is okay to not be okay during these times! If you are experiencing emotional challenges, do not hesitate to seek our support from your mental health resources (www.uniteyouthmentalhealth.com/services). Remember, taking care of yourself is not a luxury but a necessity, especially during these demanding times.