With final exams this week, stress has never been higher. Between papers and projects, there is always something that has to be turned in or studied for. Everyone has heard of the classic ways to combat stress but I want to take a deep dive into what truly works for people, both the conventional and unconventional methods.
One Media Studies Major named Malik Lendell is not very stressed for final exams but is more stressed about catching up in his school work as he has fallen behind. He has four finals and most of them are presentations or putting together a portfolio of his work. When I asked what ways work to combat stress, he answered “stress normally just takes over and I let it, but when I do try and fight it I try and go to places with different sceneries, be with friends, take a break and clear my head by going to a restaurant, listening to music, or watching a mindless show on Netflix”, but he also told me a way it does not work “staying in a quiet place to get my work done”.
However, the weirdest way he destresses is by putting on sad music to make himself cry. As weird as making yourself cry sounds, there is science to back up why it works. Crying has a purifying and cleansing effect on a person’s health. Psychologists look at crying as a tool for relieving stress and pain. Crying cleanses the body of harmful chemicals as tears not only consist of water but of the harmful toxins of the body. Crying releases oxytocin and endorphins, the happy hormones. As soon as these chemicals are released, the human frame starts to relax. It becomes somewhat insensitive. You feel less stressed and less tense. You then start to sense calm and relaxation. So while you may feel like crying is a strange way to destress, it is actually a very healthy and normal thing.
Keeton LaRue is a Physics Major and they are decently stressed for his four final exams. He does not have many ways to destress but there is one technique he always uses. He likes to “push everything off until the last minute and pretend I am not stressed.” However, despite this being his go-to way to destress, it does not work for him because “I stress and then don’t have the motivation to complete my work preemptively.” The weirdest way they get rid of stress is to “drink energy drinks and pretend my work is already done and so that I am not in constant discomfort.” The idea of “fake it till you make it” is not a foreign one, especially to college students. But why does it help? Science has shown that if you put effort into faking something, you can trick your brain. There is this general principle in psychology & neuroscience. What fires together, wires together. It’s called the Hebbian principle. It basically states that if you do something in association with something else, the two things will get interlinked.
Now that you know the science and different ways people combat stress in their everyday lives, especially in finals week, you can try some new ways. Remember, once we get through this final stretch, we are done until January, so all you have to do is hold out until your last exam. You got this!