Finals week can be one of the most intense of the semester. Students all over USC are pulling long hours in Thomas Cooper and trying to learn as much as they can before the first exams start Monday. This extra effort might benefit your GPA, but extended periods of stress paired with lack of sleep and an improper diet can start to toll on one’s physical and mental well-being.
Finding an equilibrium between taking care of your grades and taking care of yourself can seem impossible this time of year, but April Scott, Associate Director of Mental Health Initiative, is focused on helping students find that balance.
“Stress isn’t always bad ... Stress is just our bodies recognizing that something is different,” says Scott, “it’s more so how we respond to it.”
The university offers several opportunities to destress. Scott says one of students’ favorite events is Pet-a-Pup, where students can spend time with service dogs in training.
“The puppies are a big hit," she said. "It’s hard to be sad with dogs.”
Another tactic is handing out bubble wrap, allowing students to use repetitive motion to calm down.
Other opportunities are found all across campus during finals. One place to destress is the Mindfulness Space in the Center for Health and Wellbeing. Not only can you join in on guided meditation, but this space is also open for individuals to find a quiet moment by themselves.
One thing Scott emphasised is to be aware of your stress levels and the act on it early. Things to look out for in yourself and others are: significant mood change, not enjoying the things you once did, increased substance use, not going to class and changes in appearance.
Scott says the biggest indicator is, “Something is different. You’re not acting the same way you used to.”
If you or someone you know’s mental health is deteriorating, Scott says it’s important to seek help. Students have ten free meetings at the the counseling center where they can talk to a trained professional. If talking face to face seems overwhelming, mental health screenings can also be done online.
On a brighter note, Scott thinks USC is working hard to increase awareness on campus, and this support is increasing opportunities for students to find help. One of the most important advocates she has seen is Student Government.
“Our Student Government is really interested in promoting a positive mental health ... You don’t see that at a lot of universities," she said. "Students are taking the initiative."
The biggest piece of advice Scott gives?
“Breathe. It sounds simple but it's one of the things we forget."