The University of Tennessee Helps Students Chill Out From the Stress of Finals

Finals week at UT can be a very stressful time for students. However, the university combats the feelings of exam-related stress and anxiety by hosting several events aimed at calming students.

A container filled with free ice cream sandwiches for students is set up during the “Chill Out Study Break” hosted by UT SAIS the day before finals week begins.

Ice cream sandwiches, hot chocolate, and therapy dogs usually aren’t the first images that come to a college student’s mind when you ask them to think about their final exam week.

But that is something that multiple organizations on the University of Tennessee campus try to change by holding events and activities aimed at relaxing and lowering the stress level of students who may be worried about their final tests and projects of the semester.

One of these events is the “Chill Out” Study Break event that is hosted in the commons area of John C. Hodges Library the day before finals officially begin at UT.

During the event — which is held as a thank you for students who have completed their SAIS/end of course teacher evaluations according to a campus-wide email — students are encouraged to give themselves a break from studying and treat themselves at the same time with free ice cream sandwiches that are offered to anyone that comes by.

Ingrid Ruffin, the Student Success Librarian for First Year Programs at UT, says that stress-relieving events on campus such as this have been met with positive feedback from students.

Elizabeth Pemberton of the UT Office of Institutional Research & Assessment hands out free ice cream sandwiches to students as part of the “Chill Out” Study Break at Hodges Library on Dec. 2.

“Every year it’s always overwhelming,” Ruffin said.

“One of my favorite comments from students is just ‘thank you for caring about us’ and so that definitely has helped us have lower instances of students like passing out and breaking down which happens a lot when they’re not reminded to take a break and don’t have access to a place to kind of like clear their mind and relax,” she added.

“Chill Out” is just one of the many stress-reducing events that UT holds during and around finals week.

On Nov. 24, Off-Campus and Commuter Services hosted the “Cocoa & Cram” study session where hot chocolate was handed out.

From Dec. 5–8, the UT Libraries De-Stress for Success event is held as a way to unwind with “games, free massages, free snacks, and HABIT therapy dogs.”

Madison Harmon, the Chief of Staff for the UTK Student Government Association, says that she is happy to help relax fellow students.

“In the past we have done similar programs to what the UT Libraries does…we’ll pass out snacks and pamphlets for students to know that there are ways to cope with the stresses that they’re feeling during finals week,” Harmon said.

A list of events aimed at reducing exam-related student stress is posted in the second floor lobby of Hodges Library on the UT campus.

Harmon says that the UTK SGA plays an active role in stress management events.

“Our Health & Wellness Committee has done that but also our Academic Affairs/Student Services Committee has worked on that as well, I know today actually they were giving out hot chocolate and candy canes in the library,” she said.

When it comes to exam-related stress that college students face, many find it to be staggering.

According to a 2015 study conducted by Stop Procrastinating! — a website-blocking software — 64 percent of students worry that their exam stress is negatively affecting their grades and academic performance.

Students experience heightened levels of stress around the time that they take their final exams due to fear of bad grades, an unsure job market, and distractions such as social media, TV, and video games according to the study.

For UT students like senior Sam Forman, the end of the semester means a more hectic workload to mentally tackle than usual.

“With having a lot of projects, a lot of final assignments instead of actually having a final test in a lot of my classes, they’re all hitting at one time and it’s a lot to do, way more than a normal load during the semester,” Forman said.

Time management and procrastinating are some of the key culprits when it comes to high student stress and anxiety levels.

With multiple tests to study for and projects to complete in a short window of time combined with distractions of the social media, games, TV, and other social events, managing time well becomes key for students.

According to The Center for Teaching and Learning at Stanford University, tips for managing time better include: consolidating your planning time, structuring out-of-class time, and rewarding yourself for studying.

Jenn Bishop, a doctoral student in clinical psychology at UT, says that focusing on yourself first is key to managing stress.

“The most important thing is just being aware of taking good care of yourself and so that means getting the right amount of sleep, not changing your diet, make sure you’re eating regularly, getting exercise,” Bishop said.

“There are lots of different breathing techniques, muscle relaxation techniques…there’s also the practice of mindfulness which is really geared towards being in the present moment,” she added.

The UT Student Counseling Center has a guide for the practice of mindfulness listed on their website.

The Student Counseling Center offers many resources aimed at reducing student stress and is located inside the UT Student Health Center on Volunteer Blvd.

Outside of finals week events, UT has several student resources available at the Counseling Center on campus during the school year such as the “Feel Better Fast!” stress management series that meets once per week over the course of four weeks.

Bishop says of the services that the center provides, “Whether it’s seeing an adviser or seeking mental health help when you feel like you can’t do it alone, make sure to reach out.”

“I would encourage the university to continue to promote those services in a way that reduces stigma and encourages students to take advantage of the opportunities that are available.” Bishop added.

For more information on the exam-related stress relief activities that UT provides, a listing of them can be found here.

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