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Six Mental Health Tips for Teens During Finals: Notes from a Birmingham Therapist

It’s every high school student’s favorite time of year… finals! I am absolutely kidding when I say that. I know when I was in school I did not look forward to the end of year craziness. Finals can bring up feelings of stress, anxiety, or even lowered confidence for a lot of students, and it’s sometimes hard to take care of ourselves during this time. Below are 6 mental health tips that I have for high school students that can be used while studying and taking finals.

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Tip #1: Prioritize Self-Care

It’s really easy to get caught up with studying while also juggling any other responsibilities that you have during finals season. This can lead to fatigue, forgetting to eat, sitting down for long periods of time, and overall, not feeling your best. It’s important to check in with your current routine and evaluate if changes need to be made so you can put your best foot forward with exams. Some self-care items to check in on:

  • Sleep: Teenagers need on average 8-10 hours of sleep per night. Make sure you are staying organized with your studying and other agenda items to account for enough sleep!

  • Eating: It is so important to make sure you are eating enough during busy periods of high stress. Food is fuel for our body and brain, and we cannot function without sufficient nutrition!

  • Exercise: Since studying causes us to sit for long periods of time, be mindful of times you can take a walk, go to the gym, or simply move your body. It’s good for our physical health, and our brain needs breaks too!

  • Activities: Whether you draw, paint, play games, read, or participate in any other hobby, make sure you have some time to continue these activities. Studying is not normally something we enjoy doing, so having some times of joy in this season can boost our overall mood and keep us performing at our best.
a teen at a computer

Tip #2 of Mental Health Tips for Teens: Take Study Breaks

Have you ever procrastinated studying for a test and decided to just study the whole night before? Typically, this results in us getting tired and not actually absorbing the information like we thought we would. As much as we might like to think that studying for long periods of time is beneficial, it is not the most efficient way of learning information.

Taking regular breaks in studying has been shown to increase concentration and overall productivity. I like to tell clients that a good general schedule to follow is studying for 50 minutes and then taking a 10-minute break before your next round of studying. Now, this might not work for everyone, so figure out what works for you by considering the amount of time you can typically concentrate on a task.

a group of teens taking a break from studying

#3 Mental Health Tips for Teens: Find Support and Community

Finals season can feel isolating, stressful, and overall exhausting. Experiencing heightened levels of any of these emotions can lead to anxiety, depression, and even burnout. It’s important to stay connected to those around you during this time. Studying in a group setting, eating meals with friends, or taking a walk with family can be a great way to feel supported and build community during this time. Therapy is also a tool that can be used to build support, feel less alone, and work through some of these challenging emotions.

Tip #4: Mindfulness and Stress-Reduction

Studying is not the only part of finals that is stressful. Heightened stress levels can also occur while we are taking our exams. Managing our stress levels during our tests can help us concentrate and increase our ability to do our best. Below are some mindfulness and stress-reduction techniques that I like to give my clients. These are easy to incorporate into our daily routine and help us ground in times of heightened emotions.

  • Box Breathing: breathe in for 4 counts, hold your breath for 4 counts, exhale for 4 counts, and hold for 4 counts. Repeat as many times as needed.

  • Grounding: name 5 things you can see, 4 things you can touch, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell, and one thing you can taste. If you are by yourself, I encourage naming these things out loud, but in a public setting naming these in your head is good too!

  • Progressive Muscle Relaxation: tense up muscles in your body, one by one, starting at your feet and making your way to your head. Before moving to the next muscle, really focus on releasing the tension and stress you feel in your body.
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Tip #5: Practice Positive Self-Talk

It can be pretty easy to get down on ourselves during finals, especially when it comes to a subject that is not our strongest. This can be especially present in students that have a high-achievement mindset and might find their worth in their academic performance. When we continuously say or think negative things about ourselves, we sometimes end up internalizing these characteristics.

Make sure to be mindful about what you are saying about yourself during finals. Instead of saying “I’m not smart and won’t pass this test,” try reframing to something like “I prepared as best as I can, and I will do my best.” These reframed thoughts can help boost our self-confidence and reduce stress going into our tests.

#6 Mental Health Tip for Teens: Celebrate Your Achievements

Studying and taking finals take a lot of time, energy, and effort, and it’s important that you recognize everything that you accomplish during this time! Whether it’s getting the grade you want on a test, better managing your stress levels, or even improving your time management skills, recognizing your progress is a great way to build self-confidence and motivation. I also think it’s important to emphasize that not every achievement needs to be related to grades. We are more than just our academic success, even when it feels like it’s our whole life.

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Counseling for Teens in Birmingham, AL

We hope you found our 6 mental health tips for teens helpful. Remember, your health is just as important as your academic success. In order to do our best, we need to make sure we continue to take care of ourselves, both physically and mentally. Empower Counseling in Birmingham, AL is ready to help you set and achieve goals, learn about yourself, and help you live the life that you want. Our team meets you where you are in your journey to help you feel safe and supported while navigating your personal experience. We offer services to teens, students, young adults, and adults in Alabama both in person at our Mountain Brook office and through Telehealth. Kathryn, Marti, Savannah, and Lucia offer counseling for anxiety, depression counseling, perfectionism, phase of life and difficult life transitions, eating disorders, women’s issues, and trauma. Kathryn offers life coaching and executive coaching in addition to her counseling services. Marti and Savannah also offer EMDR for trauma and anxiety. We offer online counseling in Alabama.

If you’re ready to talk to someone about your experience in high school, Marti is here to support you through these steps:

  1. Click here to schedule a consultation with Marti.
  2. Get acquainted with Marti and the counseling process
  3. Start your journey towards living the life that you want

About the Author Hey, I’m Marti! I’m a therapist in the Birmingham area with a passion for helping students manage stress and anxiety, work through perfectionism and high-achievement mindsets, and find their purpose in life. When I’m not in the office, you can find me eating at new restaurants around the city or spending time outside. I am happy to take this journey with you navigating these experiences and working towards living your most fulfilling life

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