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Column: Protect your health during finals

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Tom Price | The Daily Wildcat

Jacqueline Kientzler, an electrical engineering student, falls asleep at her computer on Sunday, May 1. Many UA students may feel anxious or stressed with upcoming finals. Students often sacrifice their health for their grades during this tough time. 

In an institution of higher education, grades are stressed as the most important aspect on a student's agenda. 

However, students need to remember that caring for their health is as important as working toward getting those final points in their classes.

Our education system values high grades, many of which are earned in the final weeks of the semester. During these weeks, students throw routines and habits out the window in an attempt to squeeze out any final points they can before the grade book closes for the term. 

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Unfortunately, in many cases this includes throwing out good eating and sleeping habits.

During finals week, many students try the age-old technique of cramming over a few short days and nights. Students stay up through the early hours of the morning the night before an exam to be sure they know the material inside and out.

However, this technique is a failing one. Without a good amount of sleep the night before, the body hasn't had the chance to fully recharge overnight, leaving students exhausted and reaching for that material they crammed the night before.

The Harris Health Sleep Disorder Center recommends that students get about eight or nine hours of sleep a night, and to get a good night's sleep especially on days they have exams.

When the body doesn't recharge, it becomes difficult for the immune system to fight off disease. As seasons change and the the body has to adjust to a change in temperature, and students with weakened immune systems not only put the quality of their work at risk, but also might find themselves going home for the holidays with a cold.

On a college campus, nearly everything is shared with your peers, from door knobs to sink faucets. Students are in close proximity to each other, whether it be in the dorms, Arizona Student Unions, UA Main Library or the classrooms.

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In addition to putting off a regular sleep schedule, many students get off their regular meal schedule and find themselves snacking endlessly while studying. When we cram 30-hours of work into 24, meals are quickly pushed aside, or traded for fast food.

We often forget to take breaks and schedule time for our brain to recharge before taking in new material.

Our education system puts the odds against us as we attempt to figure out ways to build and follow daily routines. It's important that we as students take value in our personal health and make sure we're taking the right steps to stay healthy during finals and the winter season.

Though students can't help the assignments, papers and exams they have piling up at the end of the term, they can help themselves by taking some steps to prepare. Balancing studying and regular routine activities such as sleeping, eating and exercise can help students to keep their stress down, effectively giving themselves blocks of time to study.

While exams and finals are vital, it's important to remember to care for ourselves as well. Taking breaks to relax, even if they're short, will make the process of studying and finishing final projects easier.

We can't fix the education construct toward the last two weeks of the semester. What we can do is to ensure our bodies are healthy and well enough to efficiently study and finish final assignments. Part of the learning curve of being a college student is learning how to take care of yourself in the adult world, and part of that is knowing when you need to sleep, eat and take some time to have a mental break.


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