Health & Environment

How To Beat Finals Week Stress

A Texas A&M counselor offers advice to Aggies for a healthy end to the semester.
By Texas A&M University Division of Marketing & Communications May 2, 2024

A photo of a young woman sitting at a desk next to a stack of textbooks, with artist's illustrations overlaid
Students facing extra stress during finals week can take advantage of several on campus resources to cope with end-of-semester anxiety.

Texas A&M Division of Marketing and Communications


With finals underway and the end of the spring semester within sight, many students may be feeling more stressed than usual.

Benjamin Lewis, a licensed professional counselor with University Health Services, said it’s common for students to feel increased anxiety this time of year around maintaining grades or meeting personal goals. “The smaller anxieties that we may always have floating around can intensify because everything else is less structurally sound with our self-care and wellbeing at these times,” he said.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, stress is a response to an external cause, like an upcoming test or an argument with a friend, and it generally goes away once the situation is resolved. In the meantime, it can cause symptoms like excessive worry, uneasiness, headaches and loss of sleep. Texas A&M Today spoke with Lewis about how students can cope with stress during finals while caring for their mental health.

What is your advice for students who are feeling stressed or overwhelmed as the semester comes to a close?

I work as a crisis counselor, so I get a lot of a walk-ins that are maybe all of a sudden seeking help. The first things we try to focus on are the kind of things that we can change immediately, like self-care. That’s making sure we’re on top of our diet, sleep, water — it’s already kind of dubious if those things are being taken care of at the appropriate levels for college students, and especially when finals come around. If we’re deciding to lock ourselves in Evans Library for eight straight hours to try to study, those things don’t get focused on quite as much, and we know they play a massive role in our stress responses and how well we’re able to handle regular life.

Focus on self-care and make sure you’re actually eating on a regular basis throughout the day. Try to get at least six to seven hours of sleep, if not more. That can go a long way. Take time to recuperate, rest and have a little time away from studying and assignments. Those are probably some of the core stressors and triggers for those moments of anxiety and stress.

Is there anything students should avoid that could be adding to their stress?

Definitely pulling all-nighters. We know that does not tend to help stress, and it’s also not super effective for us with learning and retaining information. Even if you feel like you can’t afford to give up those hours or time to do anything other than prepping for that exam or working on that paper or project, creating that balance or setting aside time to take care of yourself is really what you want to focus on.

One of the biggest struggles for students is the ability to recognize that it’s OK to actually step away, and it actually usually ends up being a net positive force in the long run.

What are some of the self-care practices you recommend for reducing stress?

Do your best to get a regular night’s sleep, eat things that are more on the healthy side and stay hydrated. On the emotional side of things, take time to do the things that you actually enjoy. Some of us love the things that we’re studying, but it might not be the most fun thing to study for an organic chemistry final, and it can create a bit of burnout. Any time we’re doing things that we really don’t want to do, it’s going to take a toll on us and how we’re feeling, so it’s important to find that balance of doing things that we enjoy, whether it’s going for a walk, listening to music, going out and grabbing coffee or a meal with friends or just sitting at home and watching a TV show that’s enjoyable to you. In particular, do that in regular intervals so you’re not spending seven straight hours working on assignments. Break it up and give yourself a chance to decompress, and don’t let that stress and burnout build up too much over any given stretch of time.

Also, reach out to your professors. One of the biggest things we see is students feeling afraid to reach out to their professors to acknowledge that they’re struggling with something and maybe need some help or flexibility. An email to a professor can go a long way with giving you some breathing room and taking some of the load off of what can feel like an unsolvable problem.

What resources are available to students that can help them manage stress?

Counselors are here Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. When things are overwhelming, you might need a place to come decompress, talk and process what’s going on. Counselors at University Health Services can help you come up with a personalized plan on how to handle stress, and you can let the pressure release valve off and get everything out.

In a similar vein, if anyone feels overwhelmed and just needs to talk after-hours, we have HelpLine available 4 p.m. to 8 a.m. Monday through Friday, and 24 hours a day on weekends. The TELUS Health Student Support app is also available 24/7 for students to speak with a counselor at no cost.

It’s important to communicate and reach out for help. If you feel like meeting, there’s somebody here on campus that can provide you with assistance and work with you to come up with a plan.

Related Stories

Recent Stories