Balancing mental health during final exams with activity

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As the cold weather settles in and the final exam period just around the corner, stress and overexertion are at a high on the Wilfrid Laurier campuses. Manage these stressful times with small activities to recharge and boost your mood. 

Each final exam period leaves Laurier students with higher levels of stress, anxiety and depression due to the demands of their schoolwork. This year, with the COVID-19 pandemic moving school online, it is especially important to find time to take a break and decompress. 

Physical activity offers a way to boost one’s mood and mental wellbeing, Tom Hazell, an Associate Professor at Laurier of Kinesiology and Physical Education commented on the importance of using even small activities to improve cognition. 

“Getting active, generally makes — focusing on schoolwork easier, your cognition improves with activity, you are better off taking a half an -hour walk twice a day than you are doing an extra half an hour of studying.”.

Mental health can affect many areas of one’s daily life such as sleep, self-esteem, memory and thinking. All of which play significant roles in a student’s success in school. When one is off-center the rest tend to follow suit, leaving an individual to possibly feel stuck and unmotivated. 

Sleeping patterns often go astray during final exams, due to long nights of studying, causing students to sleep at odd hours or not at all. Some also have issues winding down to prepare for sleep; light exercise like yoga or stretching can help promote sleep and regulate sleeping patterns. 

Self-esteem may also be reduced during final exams, as burn out due to lack of sleep can cause your efforts in studying to not be reflected in your grades. Exercise can help reduce the feelings of powerlessness by setting easily reachable exercise goals. By meeting these goals, you can feel a sense of accomplishment, making you more confident in your abilities to do your work well.

“It is an important time for everyone, not just students to carve out time to focus on getting out of the same routine and hopefully kind of normalize things a little bit,” Hazell said.” 

Getting out of your routine by leaving your house is not necessarily a possibility right now but changing one’s routine in little ways can be beneficial to one’s mental health. Instead of taking a break from school by looking at your phone, try adding in exercises that are easy but still increase your blood flow. 

According to the Canadian Psychological Association, physical activity releases endorphins that help reduce stress and increase concentration to keep the mind sharp for mentally challenging tasks. Schoolwork being a challenging task and one that requires students to be stimulated to properly understand and manage the critical information, an activity can help motivate and bring focus back on their studies. 

Hazell noted that exercise does not always have to be intense or purposeful, it can be a slow and easy activity to change your routine and boost your mood.

“Activity can be used for many things past reducing hunger and weight loss;, it is very beneficial in balancing mental health,” he said.

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