Every college student knows the last two weeks of the semester are undoubtedly the most stressful. The University is seeking to provide resources to ensure students practice self-care during the mentally difficult time.
Middleton Library is allowing access to all floors 24 hours a day the week before and during finals week. There will be a room dedicated to quiet meditation and a stress relief space featuring coloring books, aroma therapy, kinetic sand, a bowl of rice, sensory bottles and origami, among other things.
“We go in there periodically to clean up, reset things and make sure the students are not abusing it in any way,” said Events & Programming librarian Randa Morgan. “We have had situations where things have walked off, but for the most part, the room is being used the right way, and the students really benefit from it.”
This year marks the first time a small nap area with three hammocks will be featured in the back of the first floor of Middleton. Morgan said she recognizes the potential for misuse, but generally trusts University students to use the resources for their intended purposes.
“I’m excited but nervous,” Morgan said. “The way I see it, if students are going to do anything inappropriate, they’re already going to do it. We’re hoping students will be respectful and only stay for about 30 minutes at a time, but we’ll see how it goes.”
The fan-favorite dog therapy will make its visit to Middleton again on Dec. 3 and Dec. 6 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. The library will also be hosting a Vine party on Dec. 3, free pizza on Dec. 4 and will provide cookies and coffee on Dec. 5.
Morgan said these events can help prevent finals week from becoming too stressful, and instead be a time where students encourage each other and bond over a common goal. She recalled a particularly heartwarming experience last December where she saw a group of students studying with a Menorah on the table.
“[One student] said, ‘I didn’t get to go home during finals week, so I brought my family’s tradition to the library,’” Morgan said. “We’re creating opportunities for students to have happy memories during these stressful times in students’ [lives]. That’s a wonderful way for us to make ourselves part of students’ lives.”
Mental Health Center Director John Otzenberger encouraged students to make use of the University’s resources because he said poor mental health manifests itself in anxiety, which in turn reduces test performance quality.
“You should have a plan that you go to the library at these particular times,” Otzenberger said. “Over-learning counteracts anxiety. If you’re just going off the cuff, and you don’t have a really good game plan, you’re going to be overwhelmed.”
Much like Middleton Library, the Student Health Center sees an influx of students toward the end of the semester. Otzenberger credits this to the heightened amounts of pressure faced by students in this generation.
“There’s a lot more stress these days,” Otzenberger said. “College costs a lot of money. We see students working two jobs, and they’re just trying to be college students. There’s also a lot of stress related to technology and social media.”
Otzenberger advised against unhealthy coping mechanisms such as cramming the night before or binging energy drinks, and instead recommends creating a study schedule and getting adequate amounts of sleep. Although a little bit of caffeine can be a good thing, the detrimental effects of an overdose outweigh any positives.
“One of the things we occasionally see here is caffeine intoxication,” Otzenberger said. “What happens is people don’t realize this, [they can become caffeine intoxicated] and they begin to struggle in terms of not being able to sleep, not being able to focus and being confused. That’s a real thing.”
The average adult should drink no more than 400 mg, or about four cups of coffee, per day, Otzenberger said. Students should also strive for between seven and nine hours of sleep, but most experts agree that the most important thing a student can do during finals is maintain a good attitude and keep things in perspective.
“The worse you feel bad mentally, the worse you feel physically,” Otzenberger said. “That grade does not make you a good or bad person. Take your grades with a grain of salt, do the best you can and don’t let it impact your self-esteem.”
*An earlier version of this story stated the events were held the week prior to Finals Week.