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Finals Week: How to Cope - Reframing Stress

December 13, 2021 - 2 minute read

Student on laptop

Let's Talk About Stress

“Stress” is viewed as negative in our society. You’ve probably often heard or even said to yourself that “stress is bad for you; you should get rid of your stress.”

  • However, here’s a powerful way to reframe stress: When something in your life has meaning, that means something is at stake. Then, your body will respond with an increase in heart rate, muscle tension, breathing. Research shows that if you interpret stress as toxic, it will be bad for you and lead to negative results, like cardiovascular problems. But if you reframe stress as normal, “my heart is pounding, my muscles are tight...This is because I’m living a life of meaning.” Something meaningful is happening; something meaningful is at stake. The narrative can be reshaped because a meaningful life is inevitably stressful.
  • Being a student with life and career goals, accept that you will experience stress and feel anxious during finals week. This means that you live a life of meaning and something is at stake.
  • Of course, some kinds of stress are overwhelming, and if it’s flooding you, you may need to take some stuff off your plate. You may be taking on too many responsibilities or have too much going on. “Distress” Do something to reduce distress, but it’s not about eliminating stress.


Create a study environment that mimics the test day. For example, if you have a big final at 3 pm on Thursday, plan to study for that test at 3 pm on Wednesday. If you eat a banana on Wednesday right before studying at 3 pm, then do the same on Thursday.

Time Management

If you are someone who especially struggles with time management, plan out your week to include everything you have to get done, including breaks, meals, and time for self-care!


This is key to remember as you are cramming papers, studying for multiple exams, etc. It’s important to give your brain intentional breaks, even if it’s just for 30 seconds. This can be muscle relaxation, deep breathing, grounding techniques, mindfulness, or cognitive reframing. If you take 15-30 seconds to do this throughout your study time, also do this during your actual exam! It will help relax your body and mind to recall and more effectively put pen to paper what you studied!


Siegel, Daniel. (n.d.). Making Sense of Life Through Narrative and Our Various States of Mind. Mindsight Institute. [Online course] 


Madison Park

Madison Park
Clinical Supervisor, CUI Wellness Center, Counseling & Psychological Services

Madison Park is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker with a MSW from the University of Southern California. Previous to her current role as the Clinical Supervisor at CUI, her extensive work with non-profits focused on serving the foster/adoption population as a therapist and program supervisor. She loves to go for long runs, hikes, and anything outdoors in her free time!

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