Stress less through food and fitness during finals

By Sara Goodwin

It’s the last day of the semester, you just finished your last class, and now it’s time to focus on friends, family and fun. But first, you have to pass five exams in seven days. Here are some simple tips to help manage and relieve stress during finals week

Eat three balanced meals each day

“When you’re body isn’t fed consistently, that in itself can cause stress,” said Jane Jakubczak, coordinator of nutrition services at the University Health Center.

Not eating can cause blood sugar levels to spike and drop, which stimulates the central nervous system and induces a feeling of stress or anxiety. By eating three balanced meals, you’ll feel calmer. This is especially important when going into a long night of studying. Jakubczak recommended having a balanced dinner otherwise “all night [you’re] foraging for food.”

Preplan your meals and snacks

“Sometimes we will still feel like we need to munch while we’re studying, and at that point, I encourage people to preplan …what they’re going to be munching on,” Jakubczak said.

Staying up late introduces another opportunity of snacking, so to prevent an overabundance of eating, pack several low-calorie snacks. Jakubczak recommends frozen grapes, frozen bananas or low-calorie popcorn. All of which students can eat relatively a lot of without consuming a ton of calories.

Don’t cut out carbs

As far as Jakubczak said she knows, carbohydrates are the one food that produce a calming effect in our bodies, in turn making us feel less stressed. On the other end of the spectrum is protein, which makes us more alert. We should eat both in moderation, but during high-pressure conditions, it’s important to eat carbohydrates throughout the day and don’t just “carbo-load” right before an exam, hoping it will calm you, Jakubczak said.

Don’t rely on caffeine

While students sometimes use coffee to keep them awake to study, the caffeine may just be adding more stress, Jakubczak said. “It’s very short-lived and your energy is going to drop very quickly and you’re going to need more caffeine to make it up,” she said.

Jakubczak recommended having no more than 300 milligrams of caffeine per day, which is equal to approximately three 8-ounce cups of coffee, or one grande coffee from Starbucks.

Make time to exercise

Any sort of exercise releases endorphins, which are essentially “happy pills,” said Brianne Rowh, assistant director of fitness at Campus Recreation Services. Endorphins uplift mood and make you feel more positive. “It overall increases your feeling and perspective of control on your life, which is going to better help you manage stress,” she said.

Exercising also boosts energy, which will better help you get more done more efficiently, she said. And just like pre-planning study snacks, Rowh recommended building exercise time into your schedule as well.

“Prioritize it just as you would a class, it should be just as important as a class. It’s taking care of yourself, which is not something that you should let go when life becomes overwhelming,” she said.

Rowh recommended getting 30 minutes of activity a day that can even be broken into three 10-minute intervals. Some easy exercises that can double as study breaks are jumping jacks, going for a brisk walk or walking up and down the stairs of the library.


Next time you have an overwhelming amount of assignments, projects or exams, practice these tips so you’re at your best.

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