As finals week bears down, FVCC offers help with stress

December 15, 2018

Flathead Valley Community College students have reached the end of the semester, but before they can relax and enjoy their Christmas break, they have to get through one of the most stressful times of the year-finals week.

According to FVCC Student Engagement Coordinator Wendy Jeschke, she’s encountered many students who sacrifice sleep, food, recreation and other critical parts of their daily lives during finals week in order to cram in extra study time or finish their projects and papers.

“I think they all experience that anxiety that comes along with taking finals and having those deadlines and trying to keep up with everything, especially this time of year with the holidays going on,” Jeschke said.

Each student handles that stress differently.

Sarah Cloninger, 23, said she’s been through finals many times and always experiences a heightened level of anxiety when it comes to test time.

“Finals usually stress me out because I’m going, ‘what was this? What was this?’” Cloninger said.

As an aspiring chef, she spent her semester taking notes, studying with friends and preparing as best she could for her culinary finals, which would test her knowledge of recipes, cooking techniques and kitchen preparation.

By utilizing resources such as the TRIO Lab and communicating regularly with her professors and classmates, she passed one set of exams with flying colors.

A second set, she said, went poorly, however, due to the amount of pressure she felt despite her knowledge of the material.

She lauded her professors with a smile on Thursday, thankful for an opportunity from her professor to retake her second set of finals in January.

At the other end of the spectrum, Peter Ziehli, 27, sat in the library Thursday afternoon, relaxed despite the six exams looming in his finals week as he pored over his textbook to finish a paper for his art history class final.

As a member of multiple student organizations, Ziehli said he thrives on a busy schedule and experiences little of the stress he saw from his peers.

He and Cloninger both agreed, the key to finals is confidence.

Equipped with smaller class sizes and numerous student and staff programs and organizations, FVCC provides its students with fun and practical resources for tackling the stress of finals.

In the days before exams began, flyers began to pop up across campus, listing ways for students to minimize their stress levels and maintain healthy habits.

“I think a lot of students are not aware of some of the things that can cause them stress,” Jeschke said.

Her list of 10 Ways to Stress Less were posted on bulletin boards across campus and dormitory walls, and were sent to student emails, reminding students to exercise, reduce their caffeine intake, get a full night’s sleep, avoid procrastination, meditate and practice other good habits to keep their minds and bodies balanced.

The list also explains how making physical and mental health a priority can reduce stress hormone levels, improve sleep quality, boost confidence and help stay focused.

The week before finals, she also worked with the Student Wellness Team to host a Stress Less Day, an event that invites all students to participate in arts and crafts, spend time with visiting companion dogs, enjoy free massages, hear some music and grab complimentary snacks.

“They really need an opportunity or opportunities to get away from reading and studying and kind of that stress that those deadlines put on them,” Jeschke said.

Some students take on additional stresses outside of school when the holiday season approaches, including financial stress, food insecurity and more.

For those students, Jeschke works with clubs and staff members on projects such as Toys for Tots, a campus food pantry and an employee assistance program to help ensure that whatever stress accompanies this time of year, FVCC can help them manage it.

Through its TRIO Student Support Services program, the college offers additional resources for selected first-generation, low-income college students and students with disabilities.

Each year, up to 350 TRIO participants can take advantage of access to tutoring labs, individualized academic success plans, advising, tutoring, peer mentoring, workshops and coaching.

For information about the program or to apply for next year, visit https://www.fvcc.edu/student-support/trio-program/.

Both TRIO and non-TRIO students also can take advantage of free professional tutoring services through the math, science, reading and writing labs on campus throughout the year.

For more information, visit https://www.fvcc.edu/student-support/tutoring/math-science-reading-writing-lab/.

For students in need of additional support for emotional and personal concerns or help coping with stress and anxiety, FVCC offers free and confidential mental counseling, available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday year-round and during college breaks.

For more information or to make an appointment, call 406-756-3880 or 406-756-3890.

Reporter Mary Cloud Taylor can be reached at 758-4459 or mtaylor@dailyinterlake.com.

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