three students sit on the ground covered in yellow leaves studying

From Stress to Success: Navigating the Semester’s Final Phase

Greg Vander Wal

about the AUTHOR

Dr. Greg Vander Wal is the executive director of The University of Alabama Counseling Center and a licensed psychologist. Vander Wal has over a decade of experience in collegiate mental health services.

We are more than halfway through the fall semester! Most of you are at the point where you need to bear down on your schoolwork for the final push. You are facing final projects, papers and exams.

You are also likely faced with decisions about how to spend your time during holiday breaks, which can be challenging for some. Help if available to help you manage all these challenges successfully.

Some challenges you may face as a student include:

  • Feeling time pressure (feeling like you are running out of time to complete your work).
  • Cramming study time, which can result in poor sleep and impaired cognitive functioning and lead to last-minute panic and anxiety.
  • Realizing you may not recover from poor academic performance earlier in the semester before you visit home.
  • Dealing with high anxiety over maintaining grade standards.
  • Going home for breaks and having to face potentially difficult environments, conversations or expectations.
  • Making conscious choices about healthy behaviors during the school breaks.

Here are some ways you can better prepare yourself for the end of the semester:

Tips for managing the fall and winter breaks:

  • Keep a good routine. Give yourself a few days to rest and recover, but then get back into a consistent schedule. This will help maintain a positive mood and energy.
  • Get some sunshine. Make sure you get up and outside every day, even for a short period of time.
  • Maintain good self-care. Exercising, eating healthy, getting plenty of sleep and maintaining balance are just as important during breaks as they are during the busy semester.
  • Set limits and boundaries. It is OK to say no to things or to be picky about what you do with your time. Planning makes it easier to set boundaries.
  • Give yourself a break. It is OK to unplug for a while, even from celebrations.
  • Acknowledge difficult feelings. If the holidays are a difficult time for you, allow yourself the space and the grace to acknowledge this. It is normal to feel grief or sadness. Don’t feel like you have to force yourself to feel a certain way during the holidays.

As always, you can contact the Counseling Center at 205-348-3863 for additional support and any questions you may have. We have same-day consult appointments available every weekday and have appointments available within the week for new clients. We are here to help!

Myth-Busting: Appointment Wait Times

One refrain we hear from students is that it takes a long time to get appointments at the Counseling Center. We’ve heard anywhere from a month to six months! There are times of the year when new client screening appointments have a longer wait, but it has rarely exceeded two weeks. Generally, students can get a screening appointment within one to two weeks. For fall 2023 so far, the average wait time for a new screening appointment is six days. Also, same-day consult appointments are available every weekday and are only scheduled day of. These are 30-minute appointments with a therapist, either in person or over the phone, and can be used by any student at any time.

If you hear reports that it takes “months” to get an appointment, this is simply not true. Please reach out to the Counseling Center directly for information on the current availability of appointments. Call 205-348-3863 for more information and to schedule appointments.

Online Resource for Students

Students have access to an online peer support community called Togetherall. This is another great resource students can use over long breaks to engage in continued support.

Togetherall’s online community is clinically moderated by mental health professionals and offers students a safe and anonymous place to express their thoughts, concerns and triumphs. Resources are free for students (aged 16+) to use and are available 24/7/365. Students can give and get support from others as well as use mental health and well-being courses and resources. It’s free, anonymous and available now. Sign up online! To learn more, watch this short explainer video.