How To Manage Your Stress During Finals and The Holiday Season

Jeremy Gottschalk, Editor in Chief

“To Do List” (Adam Diaz, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Five exams a-studying, four in-law’s visiting, three kids complaining, two full-time jobs and a notice from Amazon that your online order won’t be shipping in time for Christmas. ‘Tis the season for stressors and we asked different Valencia community members how they handle finals week and the holidays. We’ve taken our first bit of advice from Danna Alvarez, 21, Engineering, to “make a list and prioritize.”


Make a List

“I do the harder things first,” says Alvarez, “I focus on school and also work in food service. (My grade average) wasn’t as good as expected. I’m working on it. I identified things I want to work on.” Lists can help give you a visual of things you have yet to accomplish. Keep the items actionable, using verbs that can help you push through the harder obstacles.


Stay Active Physically and Mentally

It sounds like a line from a Freddy Krueger movie; “don’t fall asleep”. Heba Akbar, UCFConnect Administration Assistant I, explains, “Seasonal depression has got to me. Every time it hits 5 p.m., and it’s dark? I get really depressed. I think I need to go to sleep, but I have hours until sleep.

“I sit down and plan things, go to the gym, find things to do and make it so my brain is busy,” continues Akbar. “I try to also uplift myself with the holiday season, look for the light at the end of the tunnel. Or, I go out and see all the Christmas lights.” 

Matthew Wilson, 19, General Studies, “I like to work out and go to gym. It is all about positivity. I love to bench press. Working out gives me achievable goals and helps to manage stress and depression.”

East Campus General Studies student Matthew Wilson explains he uses working out to set goals and alleviate stress. (Valencia Voice)

Wilson elaborates, “I’m going to North Carolina with friends, and I’ll be doing push ups in 10-20 degree weather.”

Create Your Happy Space

Ay’jaylah Blandin, 18, Dance, “I use dance. I use it to show my emotions. Blandin explains contemporary and modern dance allows interpretive and expressive movement. “I’m able to freely move my body and express it how I want to,” says Blandin.  Walter Espinoza, 19, Psychology, also sees freedom in dance. “It’s something you can do without having to explain yourself or use words,” he says, “No judgement, it doesn’t matter (what people think).”

Ay’jaylah Blandin, 18, Dance, and Walter Espinoza, 19, Psychology, alleviate stress through movement and freedom of expression with contemporary and modern dancing. (Valencia Voice)

Espinosa also encourages writing in a journal if dance isn’t for you. “I journal my feelings, write out conversations, make sure to check in with myself. People really don’t do that nowadays.”


Dima Altawam displays a ceramic tile art project. Altawam uses art as her alone time to find balance. (Valencia Voice)

Dima Altawam, 48, attends Valencia College art classes as a way to have alone time. An interior designer and business owner of Design Dima, LLC, Altawan has taken all of the art classes at Valencia. Photography, sculpture, ceramics; Altawam hopes to make this pastime a part of a future business venture. This year’s Ceramics class is the sixth iteration for Altawam. “I really enjoy art.”


Take a Break

Triet Nguyen, 18, General Studies with a degree pathway into Information Technology, “I study for a couple of hours then take a break. Then, I just continue that. I balance resting and relaxing my mind, so I don’t put too much on myself. I usually get headaches or eye strain if I don’t.” According to the March 2011 Cognition journal article “Brief and rare mental ‘breaks’ keep you focused”, Mechanism of Cognitive Control researcher and Illinois Psychology Professor Dr. Alejandro Llernas wrote that his study “further proposed that momentarily deactivating a task goal ought to prevent the vigilance decrement from occurring in the first place because this process would re-strengthen the activation level of the task goal upon resumption of the vigilance task, and thereby preventing it from ever reaching a habituated state.” What does it mean? Taking a break restrengthen your eyes, mental acuity and body from losing focus.


Be Selfish, Seek Balance

One faculty member wished to remain anonymous with his way of being less stressed. In the time of giving, balancing work, family and school, this staff member says to have “JOMO”, the Joy of Missing Out. “The idea of books, websites, and streaming services pushing what and where you should be or doing. The anxiety of being unable to buy what you want to buy,” the interviewee explains. “Someone else’s lists of things to buy. I think it’s the glamor and glitz, people feel the FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).” The belief comes from the idea that people who aren’t taking care of themselves are less nice, less caring. People take it too seriously, and don’t take it to heart. It’s imperative to find balance. The suggested action was that if you buy something for your friend, also buy something for yourself. Balance your own needs, too. It can be overwhelming to see the need in other people’s lives. 


How do you manage your stress? Leave a comment below.