November 27, 2012

Surviving finals without hindering your health

By Caitlyn Crenshaw and Michelle Eigenheer–

As the end of the semester comes and finals come with it, good health may be hard to maintain for students as they exercise their minds instead of their muscles. It may be easy for students to push physical health aside, but as stress levels soar, it’s important that students take care of their bodies.

“Before you know it, students on campus will be camping out in the library and studying ferociously to finish the semester with success,” said Katrina Neubauer, a graduate assistant at the Office of Health Promotion on campus.

One of the events offered by Health Promotion is the annual Calm Cafe on reading day in the Health Promotion Activity Room.  Neubauer said that students “can take advantage of a calm and relaxing study space” through this event.

When students live in dorms or student apartments, quiet time for studying comes at a premium during finals.  Neubauer said, take advantage of resilience-building ways to manage stress and sleep.”

With the stress of finals, many students find themselves sick and studying.  In spring 2011 the National College Health Assessment showed that of the “47 percent of students who reported they had fallen ill in the past 12 months, 40 percent felt it had negatively affected their academic performance in some way.”

If students find themselves feeling sick, they should not hesitate to take a visit to the doctor.  Phillip Bressoud, executive director of campus health services, said, “We can generally see acute urgent visits same day or next day.”

Bressoud said one thing everyone can do is “cough or sneeze into your sleeve rather than your hands.  The method is much better at reducing the spread of germs than coughing or sneezing into your sleeve.”

The Office of Health Promotion is also offering a new NapZone in the Health Promotion Activity room.  Neubauer said, “The Nap Zone is a designated nap space where you can snooze to lock in learning or recover from late night study sessions.”

According to a 2010 University of Minnesota study, students’ GPAs decrease in relation to their lack of sleep.

Poor diet is also a factor during finals. It’s tempting to grab a bag of chips and an energy drink for your studying, but it’s not a healthy route to take. Doritos aren’t exactly brain food and drinks like Red Bull have made headlines lately with reports deaths linked to energy drinks.

Reports to the Food and Drug Administration have cited the potential involvement of  5-Hour Energy in 13 deaths over the last four years. Monster Energy has also been reported to the FDA as a potential contributor to deaths across the country.
It’s not necessarily the amoung of caffeine in an energy drink that gets people hyped up, but the amount of sugar that comes with it. The stay awake-factor is pretty much the same as in a cup of joe. Plus, black unsweetened coffee has no calories, versus the 100 calories found in a Monster.Instead of grabbing an energy drink, try sticking to old-fashioned coffee. A regular cup of coffee, depending on how it’s made, contains between 100 and 150mg of caffeine, according to Most Monster and Rockstar drinks contain 160 mg of caffeine. A can of Red Bull contains just 80mg of caffeine.

As for snacks, munching on junk food or McDonald’s is not going to help students much. There are many easy alternatives when you need quick sustenance.

Dried fruit is a great snack to have on hand. Not only can students avoid orange fingerprints all over rented textbooks, but dried fruit contains vitamins and minerals that junk food does not.

Nuts are another great snack, as they contain the protein your body needs. Eating them will make the consumer less sluggish since bodies use protein to produce energy. Protein also helps to build up the immune system, helping to keep away sickness.

For students who need meals fast, try skipping the McDonald’s and pizza and order in something like Jimmy John’s which isn’t generally deep fried or frozen, shipped, and thawed.

It’s hard for students to stay healthy while dealing with not only the stress of finals week, but the necessity to sit and study for hours on end. It’s not a hopeless case, though. There are ways to survive the end of the semester.

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Photos by Michelle Eigenheer/The Louisville Cardinal 

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