Optimum Stress Level for Finals

Experiencing stress at this time of year because of finals is commonplace for most campuses across the world. The stress arising from the significance of the exams can be compounded with the overwhelming nature of the content the exams cover. However, the feeling of stress is not always a bad thing. Carol Moran-Brown, senior director of the Counseling Center at Champlain College in Burlington, Vt. says, “There is an ideal level of stress for each one of us, which helps motivate us to do our best.”

Think of stress like the butterflies you get in your stomach before a big game, a first date, or a job interview. Yes, you wish the butterflies would just go away so you can feel more comfortable, but you also know your body is signaling something important is about to happen. The fact that you are aware of the situation is a positive on your side. If you didn’t have any butterflies at all, you probably do not care enough about the event in the first place.

So how much stress should you feel? According to the Yerkes-Dodson Law, (proposed in 1908 by two psychologists, Robert Yerkes and John Dillingham Dodson) the level of stress one should have for performance depends on the task. For example, you should not feel the same level of stress before making a cup of coffee that you would before you take a driver’s license test.

Psychestudy.com suggests taking into account the task you are attempting to complete and comparing it to another task you have already completed. In this case, check your current level of stress about a final you will be taking soon and compare it to a mundane task you complete every day, as well as the most stress-inducing task you’ve attempted in your life. If your current level of stress about your final is close to either one of these tasks, you should consider taking measures to increase or decrease your stress level.

Kayla Hedman, contributor to huffpost.com, suggests focusing on what you tell yourself. “If you are telling yourself that only an ‘A’ will do, when you know there is no chance of such a high grade, you may be setting yourself up for excess stress that gets in the way. Check out your perceptions and replace irrational expectations with a more rational one.”

During this last week of school, be mindful of what you tell yourself before you take your finals. Find a way to reach your optimum level of stress by placing a realistic expectation on your performance based on how much preparation you’ve done throughout the semester. Take some advice from Kayla Hedman: stay hydrated, breathe, treat yourself before your final, and catch some zzz’s.