Finals Week mental health check-in


With the countdown to Winter Break, Iowa State students are experiencing added stress.

Zane Charter

For many Iowa State students, this next week is going to add stress to the ongoing struggles they have faced this past year, with returning to in-person classes, living with mental illnesses, thinking about financial problems, acquiring treatment for medical conditions, moving out and traveling back home for break.

To figure out what this week might look like for students, the Iowa State Daily sent out a survey that asked how students focused and took care of their mental health during Finals Week. The survey was sent out in Thursday’s Daily Dose email and posted on the Iowa State Reddit page. In total, 14 students responded. Please be aware that the results described here are based on a small, self-selected sample and not a random one. Therefore, they may not necessarily represent the true views of the Iowa State student population.

Regarding what parts of her daily life were neglected by Prep Week and Finals Week, Emma Salzman, a senior in mechanical engineering, said, “Basically all of it, these two weeks are dedicated to the grind.”

Students said that having multiple assignments due was something that distracted them, and two respondents said that, during these weeks, they spend more time working on homework than usual.

Richard Lowery, a sophomore in computer engineering, said that “something difficult would probably be just other assignments before [finals] because it just causes you to overthink which one you should do first along with you managing your time.”

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, students may find that making a schedule of everything they need to do can help relieve some of the excessive, unproductive anxiety that they feel and give them a sense of control.

Some students also said they liked to take breaks to do things that they enjoy, such as spending time with friends, watching a movie or getting a drink from Starbucks.

“I’ve made it a tradition of mine to build a difficult Lego set of some kind during prep week,” Mackenzie Rice, a senior in actuarial science, said.

Some students like to go to a public location—perhaps one of the more popular being Parks Library—to work either by themselves or with a group. Rice said that she likes to “hunker down at a local cafe so [she] can feel internal peer pressure to study in public.”

One respondent said that working with others keeps them accountable. However, some may find that being around other people hinders their ability to focus.

“Even if they’re not doing anything especially distracting, just the presence of others is distracting for me,” Brinton Musser, a junior in history, said.

Many respondents said that music helped them focus and maintain their mental health while studying and working on finals. The lo-fi genre seemed to be especially popular. Musser gave classical music, specifically by Wagner, Beethoven and Bach, as well as opera, as two genres that he enjoyed.

“With music playing, all tasks seem to go by faster,” he said.

Students valued getting enough sleep during Prep Week and Finals Week. Some said that sleep was something that changed during these two weeks, with one student saying that they slept less and another saying that they slept more.

Some also said that their eating was affected. One student said that having to relocate to get food was a source of distraction for them, and a couple said that they might skip meals or eat only once a day. Musser reported feeling less hungry than usual.

“This semester is the first time it’s ever happened, but my appetite has also been heavily affected by a lack of hunger,” he said.

For any students who may be dealing with food insecurity, Iowa State has a free food pantry, as well as other options.