Ways to Reduce Stress Before Finals: Chocolate, Clutter, and Literally Shaking It Off

Posted by THE NEXTDDS on Thu, Dec 03, 2015 @ 12:30 PM

Stress_Management2.jpgAs a dental student, you more than likely feel stress on a daily basis. With finals fast approaching, your anxiety levels may skyrocket. There are plenty of familiar tools to help you reduce stress. However, there are a number of unconventional methods you may not know about. So, before you send yourself into a finals-induced tailspin, take a deep breath (often number one on the list) and consider one or more of the following:

Unclick temptation – Spending too much time on Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat can add to your mounting stress levels. Take a stand and turn off your social media notifications.

Go with the dark stuff – A little bit of chocolate can go a long way when it comes to alleviating stress. Dark chocolate is filled with antioxidant flavonoids. According to research published in the Journal of Proteome Research1, these flavonoids help blood vessels relax, helping calm overall stress. They can also minimize your risk of heart disease and reduce blood pressure.

Break your fast – After pulling an all-nighter, you’re sure to need some sustenance. At some schools, from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute2 to Northwestern3, faculty members are on the serving line to provide their students a special late night breakfast to give them the strength for another long day of exams. Eating three square meals a day will also help keep your stress levels down.

Scream therapy – Being under so much stress can make you want to scream. So, just do it! At many schools, including Northwestern, Stanford, and Harvard, students take part in a “primal scream,” where everyone opens their dorm windows and screams as loud as they can. It might not go over at your school, but you can find your own place to scream (without having the neighbors call the police).

Rub your Hoku Your “hoku” is the point in the webbing between your thumb and index finger. It’s also an acupressure point related to upper body tension. When squeezed, it can minimize stress.

Embrace your clutter – For years, neat-freak parents insisted that their kids’ messy bedrooms be ship-shape for the sake of productivity, sanity, and basic nagging rights. Forget about it! Eric Abrahamson (a Columbia School of Business Professor) and David H. Freedman (a journalist) have reported that moderate messes can actually enrich creativity and minimize anxiety.

Cackle long-distance – Make a quick phone call to your parents, BFF, or whoever else makes you laugh. Make it a simple and pleasant five-minute distraction.

Let it all hang out – Open up to a friend, family member, or any trusted colleague about what might be stressing you; letting it all out may provide relief.

Stand on one leg – Do it where people can see you and just breathe. This is also an exercise in not caring about what others think. Hopefully, this will make you even more focused to stay in the present moment.

Change perspective – Switch everything on your desk from one side to the other for one day. Life is all about perception. It’s always good to get a change of perspective when you feel stressed.

Lose your shoes – Taking off your shoes is a comfy way of relaxing while studying. Reflexology, or foot manipulation, is an ancient practice in some eastern philosophies that has a calming effect on the mind and body.

Cry me a river – Yes, that’s right, cry. A good cry can be restorative, and can separate you from a total emotional meltdown. Stress and grief-produced tears remove toxins, reduce anxiety and even kill bacteria. Your tears can work for you.

brain-after-walk.jpgRun away – Don’t take it literally, but activity and brisk exercise (e.g., walking, running, kickboxing, or shaking it off dancing), provide benefits in several different ways: oxygen enriches the bloodstream, the heart gets at workout, stress hormones are reduced and endorphins are released. That’s not news to medical professionals, so use it to your advantage!

Catch some Zzz’s – Sleep is a luxury most students can’t afford, so get it whenever you can. Allow yourself a nap between classes or every time you switch your study topic. You’ll be amazed at the results.

There is a light at the end of the tunnel – Even the calmest individuals can begin to stress just thinking about their workload. Harness the energy to focus on the tasks at hand. If finals are just around the corner, remember that in a matter of days, there will be plenty of free time to enjoy.


Find more great ways to reduce stress and stay healthy during your dental school days, by downloading our series of articles we released for "Stress Awareness Day" back in November!

Stay Stress-Free Throughout Dental School


  1. Martin FPJ, Rezzi S, Pere E, et al., Metabolic effects of dark chocolate consumption on energy, gut microbiota, and stress-related metabolism in free-living subjects. J Proteome Res 2009;8(12):5568–5579. DOI: 1021/pr900607v. Publication Date (Web): October 7, 2009. Accessed 11.25.15.
  2. Otitigbe J. Finals week: Helping Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute students de-stress before final exams. December 9, 2014. Accessed 11.25.15.
  3. Division of Student Affairs. Special Events: Fall Exam Relief 2015. Accessed 11.25.15.

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