We’ve reached the end.  Classes are finished, homework is no more, and only finals week lies between us and freedom winter break.  Whether you have straight A’s this semester or your exams will make or break your grades, there’s a level of stress that only exists during finals week.  As honors students we’re especially susceptible to stress, pulling all-nighters at the library to cram that last chapter of information into our brains or write the perfect final paper.  We have high expectations for ourselves, our academic performance, and our grades, and sometimes maintaining that perfect GPA becomes overwhelming.

If the pressure of finals and grades begins to consume you, it’s important to take a step back.  Give your brain a break from the facts and theories and go for a walk on the Horseshoe, treat yourself to your favorite baked good, or call your most optimistic friend.  Taking an hour for yourself and relaxing with a good book and a cup of tea or an episode of your favorite TV show will not hinder your academic progress.  In fact, you’ll most likely find that you’re better able to study when you come back to the material with a fresh mind.  Taking care of your mental health is important all the time, but it is especially crucial to be aware of how you’re feeling during high-stress periods.   

In addition to being aware of your own stress levels, it is important to look out for the mental wellness of those around you.  As someone who struggles with perfectionism, especially when it comes to schoolwork and grades, I don’t always recognize when I am pushing myself too far.  It often takes a kind but firm conversation with a close friend for me to realize just how overwhelmed I’ve been.  If you notice a friend or a classmate seems to be more stressed out than usual, make sure you give them a smile, a few motivating words, and encourage them to remember to take breaks and relax.

Finally, if you find yourself way too stressed or anxious and don’t know what to do, remember that USC’s health services offer free stress management programs and consultations, group counseling, and 10 free individual counseling sessions.  There will come a time in your life when grades won’t matter, but there will never be a moment when your mental health doesn’t matter.  If you’re struggling, please reach out.

Good luck on finals, and go cocks!

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