Posted on 17 April 2013.
“It feels like you are paralyzed from the eyes down. Really, you just can’t do anything but look
around. Your eyes can move, but your body can’t,” said Jacob Quick (so).
With this vivid image, Quick may have summarized the views of most Indiana Wesleyan
University students toward the climax of the school year: final exams.
Around this time of year, it’s not a surprise to hear IWU students casually throw around the “s”
word in normal conversations: “stress.”
According to Dr. Nathan Herring, IWU’s director of disability services, who teaches psychology
classes and has counseled students at the ends of semesters, some stress is expected for final
exam week. Herring said most courses are back loaded, meaning they have more assignments
near the end of the semester than the beginning.
“There is an inherent amount of stress and anxiety that comes at the end of the semester. Some
of it is completely unpreventable on the students’ part. There isn’t really anything they can do
ahead of time to reduce it or stop it from happening,” said Herring.
And, like Quick illustrated, stress and anxiety take a definite toll on the body.
Dr. Keith Puffer, psychology professor, has noticed a major trend in his 22 years teaching at
“Physically, I would argue that it can wear down your immune system. I just see students getting
sick over and over at this time of year,” said Puffer.
Herring agreed, also adding stress can have other physical effects, such as headaches,
digestive system problems and muscle aches, to name a few. But stress doesn’t only affect
students physically, but cognitively as well, according to Herring.
“Extreme stress and anxiety or prolonged stress and anxiety cuts off your access to short-term
memory, so it gets harder to memorize and learn information,” Herring said. “It also is harder
to access long-term memory, so when you are writing an essay, it’s hard to access all the
information you need for it.”
Worst of all, Puffer also said nurturing a relationship with God can be more difficult during the
end of the semester.
“Stress can, for some, de-prioritize time with God. Meditation, mindfulness with God, prayer —
these can get minimized because it’s not the immediate priority that you have,” said Puffer.
But it’s important to remember, as Herring said, only some of the stress that students carry with
them is actually needed. Jake Rupp (so) thinks many IWU students get too wrapped up about
their schoolwork at the end of the semester.
“I just understand that projects will get done. Even though they may have to be done late into
the night, they will still get done,” said Rupp.
Aside from Rupp’s mentality of accepting the circumstances, Herring has a few more tips for
students looking to bypass their biannual tsunami of stress.
“Start working on bigger projects earlier. If you have a major research project due at the end
of the semester, at some point earlier in the semester, do some of the research for it,” said
Herring also suggested a concrete goal of going through notes from each class every day for
five to 10 minutes.
“That way, when you get to actually studying for the exams, you are remembering the material,
not relearning it,” said Herring.
When he gets bogged down with grading, Puffer said that he “never says no to a nap,” and also
increases the amount of time he exercises.
Dr. Betty Jane Fratzke, chair of the Division of Behavioral Sciences, even suggested sucking on
peppermint, because it is a soothing substance.
Rupp also reminds his fellow students not to ignore their social lives.
“It helps to fit in time with your friends, especially because you are winding down to the end of
the semester, and you aren’t going to see them during the summer,” said Rupp.
Herring agreed with Rupp, and summed everything up by giving three keys to avoiding
excessive stress at this point in the semester.
Herring said, “Being really intentional about eating healthfully, keeping a consistent pattern of
sleep and keeping a balance between academics and social life, realizing that you can’t do all of