Ahh, finals week. There's nothing like it to bring out the stress in students. From pulling those all-nighters with your study groups to spending hours on end in the library, the pressure to succeed is high. While finals week is probably critical to your overall grades, you shouldn't let the stress of finals overwhelm you. Take the time to relax, and you will see that you will perform better come exam time. Here are some simple relaxation techniques to help you ease your anxiety during finals week.
Deep breathing exercises. One of the body's automatic reactions to stress is rapid breathing. You can reverse this reaction by performing deep breathing exercises. Sit up straight and place your hands on your stomach. Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose, letting your stomach expand as much as possible. By placing your hands on your stomach, you will be able to feel your stomach expand and know that you are breathing in properly. Hold your breath for a few seconds before exhaling. Exhale very slowly through your mouth. You will feel your stomach deflate. Repeat this cycle three to four times each session. This is a fast and easy technique to use during study-time and during an exam.
Muscle relaxation. Muscle relaxation is a great way to ease tension. As you relieve the tension throughout your body, you will feel less stress overall. Find a quiet place and lie on the floor. Begin by tensing all the muscles in your face. Make a taut grimace, close your eyes as tightly as possible, grit your teeth, etc. Hold this until the count of ten as you inhale. After you are done counting, exhale and relax completely. Feel the tension leave your facial muscles. Notice the difference. Continue using this technique down your body on the following muscle groups: neck, shoulders, arms, chest, abdomen, legs, and feet.
Meditation. Meditation is the process of turning attention inward and increasing awareness, while eliminating outside stimuli. Get in a comfortable position in an area where you will not be disturbed. Take a minute to relax while concentrating on your breathing. After a few minutes, choose something on which to focus. This focal point could be a word or a phrase, a point on the wall, a color, a flower, a tree, etc. Focus all of your energy and attention on your chosen focal point. Become aware of the basic elements of your focal point. As you practice meditation more often, you will begin to see your problems and difficulties in a whole new perspective and will be able to cope with stress better.
Visualization. Visualization helps the body relax, thus reducing stress. It involves the images of scenes that are calming and peaceful. With eyes closed, visit a tranquil spot in your imagination. Notice the comforting sights, sounds, and sensations. Feel yourself relax. Stay in this peaceful setting until you feel completely relaxed.
Laughter. This may not seem like a typical relaxation technique, but laughter actually gives a calming effect to the human body. After laughter, the heart rate steadies, breathing deepens, and the muscles relax. So, if you are in the middle of studying for a huge exam, take a break to laugh. Call one of your witty friends, watch a sitcom, or read the comics. Just do anything that will make you laugh.
Massage. When you are stressed out, your body responds with increased muscle tension. By massaging those muscles, you can return them to a relaxed state. It is more conducive to have someone else give you a massage but if you do not have another person at your disposal, then you can always give yourself a massage in the areas that you can reach such as your neck, shoulders, legs, feet, etc. Massaging your neck and shoulders proves very beneficial when you have been hunched over a book all day.
Exercise. While you may think exercise is the complete opposite of relaxation, it is actually a great way to release stress from your body. Through exercise, you use up the adrenaline that is already in your system due to the stress. Having less adrenaline in your system increases the potential for relaxation. Aerobic activities, such as swimming and running, are great stress busters because they release the adrenaline. A less demanding type of exercise is yoga. Yoga actually combines some of the above mentioned techniques, such as deep breathing, muscle relaxation, and meditation, while toning and stretching muscles at the same time.
While finals week is undoubtedly stressful, the relaxation techniques mentioned above will help you cope under the pressure. Best of luck in overcoming your stress and receiving nothing but good grades on your finals!