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5 healthy ways to reduce stress and improve performance during finals

Between the holidays and finals, this time of year can get a little overwhelming. Here are our top 5 tips on how to relax and destress during the next few weeks.

1. Limit your social media time

We all know how easy it is to get on TikTok for a few minutes and somehow spend the next two hours scrolling the "For You" page. While an occasional social media break might help you stay connected to friends and family, make sure to use your time wisely — and only check it when you've finished with your study session or project.

According to a study published in the "Journal of Behavioral Addictions," you're more likely to have a decrease in mental efficiency after taking a "social media break." Check in with yourself before you head over to social media — are you feeling disconnected or just bored?

2. Get moving!

Exercise has more benefits than just getting in shape. Aerobic exercises can improve your memory, concentration and mood — very important to studying! That's because your brain does a lot of cool things while you exercise to help you keep information, like binding nerve cells and developing cells in your hippocampus (the part of your brain in charge of learning and memory).

Exercise can also help improve your mental health. Your brain produces more endorphins and dopamine — which can improve your mood and jump start your attention span.

Aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise a day. Try jumping in our indoor pool, taking a run around campus or heading over to the Morton Fitness Center and hitting the cardio machines. Group exercise more your style? We have free classes for students!

3. Reach out

It can be easy to get caught up in studying, projects, work and more. But make sure to carve out some time to connect with others, especially when you're feeling stressed. Getting tips from family and friends can help you take a breath and provide new ways of thinking.

If you need some professional advice, you can also contact the Counseling Center or use TimelyCare. Both are free services for our students!

4. Do something that makes you happy

Do you like to draw? Listen to music? Shoot some hoops with friends? Take a break from studying and spend some time doing something that makes you happy. Research taking study breaks for up to an hour can help refresh your brain and increase your energy, productivity and ability to focus. Make sure to schedule time to focus on things you love — it will help your mental health, too!

5. Get some rest

This may be last on our list, but it is not the least. In fact, it might be the most important. All-night studying can make you perform worse on a test. You're more likely to get better scores by studying for an hour and then sleeping — that's because your brain stores information while you sleep. It's like having a personal filing system. If you don't sleep, your files will stay scattered all over your desk and might accidentally fall into the shredder. Yikes! But if you sleep, your files will "magically" start organizing themselves and keeping them stored inside your brain, making it easier to recall the info you need.

Rest and sleep improve not only your brain functions, but also keeps you healthy. Your immune system needs time to recover, and it goes to work to keep itself healthy while you sleep.

Not to mention, you'll also have a lot more energy and can improve your creative problem-solving and critical thinking skills.

Good luck on your finals, Rams! You've got this!

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