Maintaining good mental health during finals


Mikinna Kerns/Iowa State Daily

Incoming freshmen smile as they walk toward the tunnel of DIS leaders Aug. 16, 2018, during the Destination Iowa State Kickoff event.

Mary Valentine

Most college students can agree that the most stressful time of year is upon us: finals. Many students have been working hard the past several months and often have the most important tests, papers and projects to finish up before they leave for break.

In this time of finals chaos, there are several ways to stay positive and practice good mental health.

Whether your stress and anxiety are chronic or flare up in times of stress such as finals, one of the most healthy ways to handle stress is by being mindful.

“When students are constantly doing work and school, they are at a heightened stress level all the time, and a lot of times people can’t necessarily recognize it in the moment … then you’re existing like that all the time and it can be hard to relax,” said Brian Vanderheyden, assistant director of student wellness at Iowa State.

Many students can say that they are experiencing this now or have at some point in their lives. Vanderheyden provided tips such as deep breathing exercises and taking several moments to yourself during a study break or right before a test to combat both your body’s physiological and psychological response to stress.

The Student Wellness Center has set up mindful walk signs on campus to help students meditate while walking between classes.

Another key way to maintain good mental health during finals is to have an immense amount of self-compassion. It’s easy for negative thoughts such as “This is too much, I can’t do this and I’m not good enough,” to slide into your head during finals.

Although it’s difficult to stay positive when there’s a lot of pressure put on you, that is when you should stay the most positive, even if you have to trick your mind into doing so.

Vanderheyden said we should treat ourselves how we would treat a friend. This is a reminder to students that practicing good mental health is not being selfish, but a priority.

“If you had a friend suffering, how would you help them?” Vanderheyden said. 

Vanderheyden also recommended to maintain good mindfulness and self-compassion, you could keep a journal and write down three good things that happen each day. This can help you to keep track of the good and happiness around you.

Besides mindfulness and self-compassion, you can seek resources to help improve your mental health. During finals time, the Student Wellness Center works in union with Parks Library to provide stress reducing activities. Student Wellness Ambassadors share tips on stress reduction, provide coloring sheets and support Barks@Parks and the massages in the library during dead week.

If you are finding yourself overwhelmed by finals, be sure to check out the Student Wellness website for information about deep breathing, mindful meditation and much more.

Vanderheyden wanted students to know that any resources you may need are surely provided here at Iowa State, and to reach out to anyone who may be in need of these resources.