Editorial: What’s the Best Method to Combat End-of-Semester Stress?


As we near the end of the semester, many of us — if not all of us — are swamped with work. For students, our classes are coming to a head with an influx of assignments: final papers, tests, cumulative finals, individual and group projects, presentations and likely other things as well. And that’s not just for one class, it’s for all of them. For full-time students, that typically means four or more classes are assigning projects, papers and finals to be completed.

For many students, schoolwork isn’t the only thing they have to worry about. Jobs take up a significant chunk of their time, leaving even less time for classwork. Some students have their families to take care of, people who rely on them for everyday essentials, whether that’s taking care of children, siblings or even their older family members. And that takes even more time out of the day from working on class assignments.

Though we can’t be sure of what professors are experiencing as the semester comes to a close (since we at The Whit are students), it’s surely no cakewalk. Many professors teach multiple classes and — since they’re giving all these assignments to their students — they have to grade them all — for each student in every class. And they, too, have families and other obligations that restrict their schedules.

All this neglects the omnipresence of COVID-19, which in New Jersey is experiencing a resurgence. Gov. Phil Murphy has tightened restrictions in anticipation of this uptick in cases. On top of everyone’s life obligations and schoolwork, this has made for a particularly stress-inducing semester.

With all the work that students and professors alike have to accomplish by the end of the semester, many of us are frantically working on several in-depth assignments at once. A bit cliché, but there’s just so much to do with so little time. Thus, our schoolwork has overtaken our day-to-day lives for the next few weeks and caused stress. How else should we complete our assignments to the best of our ability and finish them on time, other than to spend all our time that’s not already occupied with other obligations working on them?

The short answer is that we need to take breaks. Scientifically speaking, breaks make us more productive. If we’re sitting in front of a computer all day — like we all are due to virtual classes being the standard this semester — we aren’t going to be as productive. Yes, we might be working for longer, but are we actually making progress on our work? Typically, we aren’t. By taking breaks between periods of working, you’re able to accomplish more in shorter periods of time. Taking breaks — especially during finals season — can help us live up to the adage “work smarter not harder.”

Not only do breaks make you more productive, they can help with your overall health as well. The stress of schoolwork can negatively impact your emotions and mind — with symptoms including irritability, anxiety, nervousness, fatigue and more. Not only that, but stress can have physiological impacts such as weight gain, headaches and frequent colds. By stepping away from your computer and school stressors, taking a break can help return your mind to a state of normalcy, which is something that many people have difficulty achieving under the pressures of finals season.

So take breaks. Whether it’s getting up and exercising, walking around campus, talking to friends on the phone or even keeping up with a hobby, taking a break will help improve your academic performance, your mood and your health. Especially with the added stressors from the ongoing pandemic, it’s important that we keep some sort of balance between the stress in our lives and the pleasures that relieve them.

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