Stress is a natural part of finals, so why not just accept it?

Yes, stress is natural, and it is not surprising that Bowdoin students stress as they face mountains of papers, projects and exams. Periods of short-term stress, which release norepinephrine, can even increase performance. However, there are ways to manage constant long-term stress and avoid illness and excess anxiety.

Too much stress during finals can impact everything from your health to your ability to concentrate and, consequently, your actual grades. So how do you achieve a "just right" level of stress?

One big thing is planning ahead. Some think that night-before paper writing and cram sessions are efficient and to each his own, but for the most part the best method to manage stress and stay collected during finals is to avoid piling a lot on in a small amount of time.

Breaks are also helpful. Try to take even just 15 minutes every couple hours to get completely away from work and have a little fun. When you start getting that "I hate Bowdoin, I hate work, I may cry" feeling, go jog, draw, take a few deep breaths or whatever you like to do to de-stress.

I realize that managing stress may be starting to sound a lot like work, but it will make for a happier and healthier finals period, and your grades may even improve with your mood.

I always get sick right after I get home for Winter Break, what can I do to prevent this?

Oh yes, the inevitable post-finals cold: a major college student epidemic. The cold may be caused by change in environment and activity. When you move very quickly from a high-stress, high-pressure schedule to a relaxed one, it affects your body and mind. As you calm down, your overworked, overstressed body relaxes, making you more vulnerable to illness. Any alcohol you consume the night before you head home may also compromise your immune system.

Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to resist blowing your nose during holiday dinners. The main thing is to stay on top of your health over finals period. This means not blowing off meals to study, staying hydrated, taking relaxation breaks, maintaining hygeine and boosting your immune system with some extra vitamins. Easier said then done, I know, but it's important to try. I have a friend who schedules her breaks, meals and even showers in her iCal. Do whatever you need to do to manage your time well and you may just avoid the "welcome home" cold.

What is the best kind of study snack?

Snacks are a great way to keep your energy up and help you concentrate while studying. The best kind of study snacks are those that give you long lasting energy and keep you healthy, rather than bursts of energy that may not give you any lasting nutrients. Okay, I will admit that I am partial to sugar- and caffeine-filled treats, but my Little Debbie cakes and Redbull actually end up giving me stomach aches that stop me from getting anything done.

Apples, cheese, peanut butter (actually any nuts for that matter), and even popcorn are great to give you long lasting energy and keep you focused. All these snacks are also readily available in the dining halls and the C-Store. As for caffeine, remember that it dehydrates you, so keep that Nalgene full. Drinking lots of water will help you avoid distracting headaches and remain healthy. Basically, try to avoid loading up on junk food and stick to healthy tasty snacks (though the occasional Little Debbie won't hurt).