‘You’re not alone’: UC Berkeley finals bring stress, mental health emphasis

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During finals week, many UC Berkeley students are facing intense stress and challenges to their mental health in preparation for exams.

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With the lure of winter break right around the corner, crowds of UC Berkeley students can be found hunched over laptops in libraries, cramming lectures and pulling all-nighters in preparation for their final exams.

During finals season, there is an unmistakable atmosphere of stress on campus. For campus fifth-year Jocelin Robles, the decline in mental health during finals week is a scene she is familiar with. During Reading, Review and Recitation, or RRR, Week alone, Robles has had two exams.

“Having two finals in the same week was very stressful,” Robles said. “(For one final), I did experience a lot of blocks where I just couldn’t continue writing.”

One of the exams was for the DeCal “Volunteer Income Tax Assistance,” where Robles had to answer about 50 questions posed as tax preparation scenarios. While Robles appreciated the course facilitators making the exam untimed and open-note, she said taking the exam was still stressful as going through the scenarios and comprehending questions was exhausting due to her mental health.

However, Robles has learned to prioritize her well-being amid academic demands. During RRR Week, Robles made sure to take breaks from studying, visit friends and reward herself by eating out.

“I feel like everyone is just so focused on turning in assignments and getting those perfect grades that they forget to take care of themselves,” Robles said. “I’ve been there before where I’m just working on final after final, and by the end, I’m burnt out, so I would tell other people to take care of themselves.”

While many students may feel compelled to hole up in a library to study, Robles noted the stressful atmosphere at popular libraries during finals season can be more harmful than helpful. Instead, she opts to study in places including the Haas School of Business, the East Asian Library and the campus Public Service Center.

Robles recommends that students struggling with motivation should try to find something that “recenters” them. For her, that means doing things such as taking strolls and thinking about her future after graduating.

“It took me five years to convince myself I belong here,” Robles said. “It’s important to remind yourself in a loving way that you are meant to be here at UC Berkeley despite how hard it might seem right now.”

The ASUC has also made efforts to support students’ mental health during this time, according to the ASUC Academic Affairs Vice President James Weichert.

Weichert noted students could attend events such as Llamapalooza to de-stress or grab free cookies and testing materials on Sproul Plaza during RRR Week.

“You’re not alone — everyone at Berkeley has dealt with (feeling overwhelmed) at some point,” Weichert said. “If it’s getting really bad, I would highly recommend reaching out to (University Health Services) and (Counseling and Psychological Services) and setting up a quick phone call. … There’s a ton of resources that are here for you.”

Contact Cindy Liu at [email protected], and follow her on Twitter at @_CindyLiu_.