Finals week. It’s the light at the end of the tunnel but it can also be the worst week of the entire semester. Although months of hard work are finally coming to an end and summer break is just around the corner, you still have to make it through a week of intense testing, final labs, and essay writing before you can start celebrating.
So how do you prepare for the inevitable stress you know is to come? Especially since getting through a typical week sober can sometimes still be a challenge.
Sober or not, finals week could drive anyone to drink, but college students in recovery must take extreme precautions to protect themselves from the consequences of stress during this time. In this blog, we’ll discuss seven specific ways you can cope with the stress while also safeguarding your sobriety.
Stress and Relapse
In addiction recovery, stress is an important factor that is known to increase the risk of relapse.1 Addicts in recovery are particularly prone to stress, as substance abuse alters the processes our minds and bodies naturally use to cope with stress. As a result, even a small amount of stress can leave an addict in recovery struggling with intense cravings for drugs and alcohol.
While certain tasks like searching for employment or juggling daily responsibilities may not be as stressful for someone who has never suffered from addiction, these things can be more challenging for addicts in recovery, as they work to develop a healthy daily routine in a life of sobriety.
Recovery support services such as transitional housing and sober living programs are designed to provide additional support for people in recovery as they learn to live sober, independent lives. Programs like our SEV (Support Employment and Volunteering Program) and peer recovery support program carry people in recovery through everyday life with one-on-one contact and assistance from a circle of support people. Even just the daily structure provided by our sober living homes for men and women in recovery helps recovering addicts manage stress by giving them an opportunity to practice the healthy coping strategies they learned in rehab.
Common Warning Signs of Stress
Although every person responds differently to stress, there are some common warning signs that you can look out for. If you recognize these signs of stress in your own daily life, you most likely need to pay a little extra attention to your self-care practices, talk to your sponsor, or confide in one of your sober living roommates so you can get help.
According to the American Psychological Association, the following physical cues could be signs that you’re feeling especially stressed.2
- Muscle tension
- Neck or back pain
- Digestive problems
- Dry mouth
- Chest pain and/or rapid heartbeat
- Problems sleeping
- Loss of appetite or overeating
- Frequently getting sick
- Lack of concentration
- Memory problems
- Short temper
Sober Ways to Cope with Stress During Finals
If you’re getting ready to complete your last few weeks of the semester and have yet to make a plan for how you will conquer this challenge, here are a few recommendations and tips that may help you get through finals week sober.
- Meditation – Regular meditation provides emotional and physical benefits.3 Taking 10 to 15 minutes to meditate at the start of each day can help you maintain a positive and peaceful mindset as you move through your day. If you’re feeling especially stressed out about your finals, you may even want to take several five-minute breaks to meditate and breathe deeply throughout the day to maintain that sense of peace and calmness.
- Make time to meet with your sponsor or recovery specialist – Eudaimonia’s sober living and recovery support programs prioritize peer support by encouraging regular interaction with your sponsor, AA groups, sober living peers, recovery specialist, and house managers. If you’re feeling extra stressed about finals, schedule a meeting with your sponsor or someone from the Eudaimonia support staff and talk to them about it. Chances are, they’ll also have some great recommendations for stress management and they may even be willing to help you come up with a plan to conquer your finals.
- Study with friends – Studying alone can be daunting, especially if you’re already feeling stressed about it. If there are other students who live in your sober living home, ask them if they’d like to study together during finals week or schedule a few meetings in which you can study together over a cup of coffee at a local cafe. If you don’t know any other students in your sober home, ask a friend from class to study with you instead or search for study groups on campus.
- Take time to do something you enjoy – Taking some time to relax and rest is a very important part of managing stress during finals week. Avoid burnout by taking breaks throughout the day. Go for a walk, grab a bite to eat at your favorite restaurant, play a game of basketball with your sober living roommate, or just drive around aimlessly listening to some of your favorite tunes. Whatever activity makes you feel happy, calm, and relaxed, take the time to do that while you give your mind a break from all the studying.
- Make a plan – In the days before your finals begin, it would be a wise idea to identify specific stressors in advance and make a plan for how you will deal with them. For example, if you know your final for biology is going to be particularly difficult for you, talk to other students in your class before finals week arrives and organize a study group. You could also search for free tutors on campus that are willing to help you study. Another way to plan in advance is to create a detailed schedule for yourself that breaks each day down into chunks of time dedicated to studying, eating, sleeping, and resting so when you feel overwhelmed, you can simply consult your schedule to make sure everything gets done.
- Get some sleep – Although it’s important to study during finals week, sleep is also an essential piece of the puzzle. Make sure you’re sleeping at least eight hours each night, even if that means putting the books away earlier than you’d like to. You’ll wake up feeling more refreshed and you’ll have more energy and brain power to tackle your studies and exams the next day.
- Make sure you’re eating well – A steady diet of Totino’s pizza rolls and fast food is going to leave you tired, cranky, and moody, which will only add to the stress you’re already feeling during finals week. Maintaining a regular, healthy diet is essential during this time and will actually help you perform better as you study and take your exams. The week before your finals begin, grab a buddy from your sober living home and head to the grocery store to pick up healthy snacks like fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Lean proteins like fish and chicken are also great staples for dinners and can easily be paired with bagged steamable veggies for a quick, easy, and nutritious meal. If something sweet will help you cope, small amounts of dark chocolate might be just what you need to get through that difficult study session.
Dealing with stress is a normal part of maintaining overall health and wellness, but for addicts in recovery, it’s even more important.
Hopefully, these tips will help you manage your stress and maintain your sobriety as you finish your last few weeks of school. If you have found that you’re struggling to maintain your sobriety on an everyday basis, you may benefit from enrolling in a Eudaimonia sober living program, Addiction Monitoring Program, or IOP.
If you’re interested in learning more about IOP, sober living houses, or our other recovery support services, please call Eudaimonia Recovery Homes today for more information.