Getting Through the Stress of Finals

Students studying at tableThe end of the semester is approaching, and that means final exams are on the horizon. This can be a very stressful time for many of us, since exams often count for a significant portion of the final grade, and there’s everything else going on in our lives on top of that. Thankfully, there are ways to reduce your stress levels that won’t only keep you sane; they might even help you do better on your exams. Here are some of the ways that you can reduce your stress while preparing for final exams.

Exercise

The benefits of regular exercise include strengthening your bones and muscles, managing your blood sugar and insulin levels, and reducing your risk of heart disease, to name only a few things. Did you know that exercise can also lower your stress levels? According to the Mayo Clinic, virtually any form of exercise can act as a stress reliever, and it does this in a few ways:

  • It increases your body’s production of endorphins, which are the feel-good neurotransmitters commonly attributed to the runner’s high.
  • It causes you to concentrate on your body’s movements, driving out the thoughts that are stressing you through singular focus, similar to meditation.
  • It can increase your self-confidence, relax you, and lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety, all of which will improve your mood.

If you want to use exercise as a stress reliever, the main thing is that you find an exercise that you enjoy doing. Whether it’s running, weight training, yoga, playing a sport, or even dancing, if it’s an activity that gets your body moving, it will aid in reducing the stress you’re feeling. If you’ve got the time and are on the main campus, you can visit the ACC Fitness Center in the Annex building, which has equipment that students can use for free when you swipe your student ID card.

Diet

Having a well-balanced diet, one that contains a good balance of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, is essential to living a healthy lifestyle. While the occasional fast food outing or snack run isn’t going to ruin your diet, reaching for a cheeseburger or bag of chips might not be the best option while you’re studying. In fact, according to UCLA’s Explore Integrative Medicine site, there are certain foods and other supplements that can aid in lowering your stress levels by strengthening your immune system, stabilizing your mood, and reducing blood pressure. Here are some nutrients that can help to reduce your stress, and some foods that contain them:

  • Vitamin C – lowers your levels of cortisol (a major stress hormone) and your blood pressure during high-anxiety situations.
    • Citrus fruits, pineapple, broccoli, tomatoes.
  • Complex Carbohydrates – Increases serotonin production (which contributes to well-being and happiness) and stabilizes blood pressure.
    • Whole grains, fruits, vegetables.
  • Magnesium – Useful for avoiding headaches and fatigue, relieving premenstrual mood changes, and improving sleep quality.
    • Leafy greens, salmon, soy beans/edamame.
  • Omega-3 Fatty Acids – Reduces surges of stress hormones and promotes protection against heart disease, depression, and premenstrual syndrome.
    • Tuna, salmon, pistachios, almonds.

Some common comfort foods can also give you benefits. A bit of dark chocolate not only relieves stress, but can improve your cognitive function and mood, while oatmeal can reduce your levels of stress hormones and boost your serotonin. If you enjoy drinking tea, you can benefit from chamomile, which relieves stress-induced symptoms, mint, which relieves stress and induces calmness, and barley, which relaxes the body by improving serotonin synthesis. If you’d like to pick up a healthy snack or some tea ahead of your finals, the Espresso Yourself Café on the Main Building’s first floor offers a wide range of items that have stress-relieving benefits, and will be open from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm before and during finals week.

Meditation

According to the National Center for Complimentary and Integrative Health, meditation as a practice is used “for increasing calmness and physical relaxation, improving psychological balance…and enhancing overall health and well-being.” In trials and studies, it has been determined that a particular form, mindfulness meditation, shows evidence of improving anxiety, depression, and even insomnia. Here are a couple of ways that you can practice mindfulness meditation:

  • Remain aware and present in the moment – don’t let the past or future concern you, pay attention to your current surroundings without judgment.
  • Breath awareness – take slow, deep breaths, count the number of seconds you spend breathing, and ignore any thoughts that enter your head. Focus only on your own breathing.

Meditation has an advantage in that it can be done just about anywhere, and you can employ some of the breathing techniques while you’re taking your exams. One technique, called 4-7-8 breathing, is to slowly breathe in for four seconds, hold that breath for seven seconds, and then slowly exhale for eight, and repeat at least three more times, or until you’re feeling relaxed.

Sleep

Sleep and stress both influence each other. When we get the necessary amount of restful sleep per night, our stress levels on average are lower, but when we’re stressed, it becomes harder to get that good night’s rest. On top of that, stress can lead to insomnia, further making it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. So what can you do to get the sleep that will help lower your stress and get you well rested for exams? The National Sleep Foundation offers these tips:

  • Exercise – releases both physical and mental tensions. Recommended at least three hours before bedtime.
  • Downtime – avoid electronics and work-related, stimulating, or stressful activities. Do calming activities such as reading, light stretching, or listening to calming music. Recommended 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime.
  • Decompression techniques – deep breathing, guided imagery, or progressive muscle relaxation. Recommended five to 10 minutes before bedtime.

Other ways that you can get to sleep more easily include not eating within one to two hours before bedtime, avoiding caffeine in the afternoon and evening, drinking herbal teas containing chamomile, valerian, or lavender, and aromatherapy.

Time Management

Between school, work, social time, and personal time, we’re trying to juggle a lot of events both in our lives and with other people’s lives, which contributes to a lot of our stress. Knowing how to effectively manage that time can help to eliminate some of that stress. The McGraw Center for Teaching & Learning at Princeton University has come up with ten principles derived from research on time management, motivation theory, and experience working with university students that can help you effectively plan out your time. Here is the abridged version:

  1. Commitment – Only schedule tasks if you’re going to do them.
  2. Pursue fun – Make time for the things you enjoy doing, and organize your academic and other obligations around those commitments to fun.
  3. Time vs. task focus – Devote time to important tasks, and set your purpose for those tasks.
  4. One thing at a time – Current research shows that what we consider to be multi-tasking is actually switching back and forth between tasks, which takes more time and energy.
  5. Block out time – Devote chunks of time to specific classes, and make those chunks a part of your regular schedule.
  6. First things first – Schedule the most important tasks to do first thing in the day, or as early as possible.
  7. Routine – With good habits in place, you don’t have to make as many hard decisions, and are less likely to make unproductive ones.
  8. Flexibility – Leave empty time slots for when your schedule changes, and schedule in recreation time.
  9. Respond vs. react – When faced with a decision to diverge from your schedule, pause and take a moment to think about it, then remember what’s most important to you and do what will help you get it.
  10. Organize your environment – Minimize distraction, maximize focus, use physical reminders, enlist the aid of friends for studying, and ask them not to call or text you when you need the time for your tasks.

Since study time should be on your agenda, here are some tips when studying for exams:

  • Review your notes often to familiarize yourself with the content.
  • Give yourself short breaks every 20-30 minutes to give your brain a chance to process the material.
  • Avoid cramming right before your exam.

Lastly, be sure to include enough time in your schedule to get to class at least five minutes early. Take into account how long your commute time is in the worst-case scenario so that you can don’t find yourself stuck on the road when your exam starts.

Whether you try one of these methods or all of them, each method has a positive influence on the effectiveness of the others, so try whichever ones fit your wants and needs and experiment. There are many other ways that you can reduce your stress as well. One such way is through the Denver Pet Partners Therapy Dog event, being held this May 6th from 11:30 – 1:30 in the library on the second floor of ACC’s main building. The library will also be offering healthy grab ‘n go snacks and extending their hours that week, giving you more opportunities to practice beneficial stress relief before finals begin.

Good luck to all of you on your exams!

by Martin Strom, ACC Copywriter

9 Reasons You Should Get Involved On Campus

ACC students and Student Life Director Dan Balski at the Student Engagement FairGoing to college is about so much more than just going to class (but please make sure you are doing that). It is also about gaining experience and perspective to help you in your future. Getting involved on campus can help you succeed in numerous ways…here are 9:

  1. Build Your Community / Find Your People
    Joining a club or organization, going to an on-campus event, or working on campus can help you find your people (those people that get you and you get them) and build your community. You’ll meet people who share your interests and passions. Having that community helps you stay engaged with your education and with your college. You’ll gain the sense that you belong right where you are and have the support to help you Move Mountains toward your degree/certificate.
  2. Networking
    Getting involved on campus gives you a chance to network with not only your peers, but faculty, staff, transfer college reps, and potential employers. At ACC, we offer career fairs/visits, transfer fairs/visits, clubs, organizations like NSLS and PTK, and a variety of activities where you can practice your networking skills.
  3. Get Different Perspectives
    When you get involved, you will get to meet people with different perspectives and life experiences. As you share your perspectives and experiences and learn about other viewpoints, your perspective will expand. Having an open mind and seeing another person’s point of view will help in future jobs and socially.
  4. It Helps You Reach Your Goals / Succeed
    Studies show that students who get involved on-campus tend to perform better in the classroom. This may be because these students find study groups, take classes with their new community of peers, and overall just feel more supported and ready to tackle each challenge they face. (Read more about the research by Alexander Astin and Vincent Tinto.)
  5. Snacks!Students at Student Life BBQ
    Attending an on-campus activity is a great way to feed your mind and your body. We know our students have more commitments than just college, so we provide you with snacks, coffee, pizza, soup, salad, and candy (for that burst of sugar) to keep you going from one activity to the next. Enjoy an activity and a snack between classes.
  6. It’s Good for Your Mental Health / Well-Being
    Taking time to enjoy an activity or join a club for a hobby you enjoy can do wonders for your mental health. It gives you a chance to focus on something you enjoy and de-stress. It helps you relax, but can also help you prepare for tasks and homework that lie ahead.
  7. It’s a Resume Booster
    Being involved on campus looks great on your resume. When you join a club, organization, or academic experience (Pinnacle, Progenitor, Great Books, Writers Studio) you are showing that you are well-rounded to potential employers. You are also learning skills that you may not be in class, such as: social, leadership, and organizational skills. Clubs and organizations are a great way to practice those “soft skills” employers are seeking. You may also be eligible for a work study job on campus as a component of your financial aid package. Work on campus and build your job skills.
  8. Develop Leadership Skills
    Speaking of building your skills, colleges have organizations to help provide you with leadership skills. At ACC, we offer: Student Government, Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), and National Society of Leadership Success (NSLS). These organizations provide you with the opportunity to take part in competitions, activities, and events that will give you the chance to grow as a leader.
  9. It’s fun!
    Getting involved on campus is fun! These activities, clubs, and organizations are designed to help you relax, build skills, and interact with your peers and the college community. So take a break from your studies (but please still make time to study) and join the shenanigans!

You might be asking yourself how you can get involved at ACC now? It’s easy.

There are a ton of ways to get involved whatever your interests may be. We want ACC to be your home away from home while you are getting your degree or certificate. Our faculty and staff are here to help you along your educational journey and beyond. After all, college is a time for studying (we didn’t forget), discovery, and planning for and beginning your future. Let’s Move Mountains together!

For more information about how you can get involved on campus, contact the ACC Student Life Office at 303.797.5668, student.life@arapahoe.edu, or visit M2820 on the Littleton Campus.

ACC Student Spotlight: Nate Bertz

ACC student Nate BertzLeadership, confidence, and lifetime friends are just some of the things that Nate has gained as an ACC student and work study employee. His favorite part about being in the ACC community is the amount of resources the school provides for student success. He always tell students, “The key to great grades is time. If you have the time to dedicate to your education, and utilize ACC’s resources, you’re guaranteed to get A’s in your classes.” And he continues to recommend ACC to anyone and everyone because if ACC can make a leader out of Nate, they can make a leader out of anyone.

From the words of Nate, “before I was at ACC, I had zero leadership skills, professional experience, and a limited number of distant friends. When I came to ACC, I thought I was going to fail out like I did in high school. However, on my first day of class, my teacher told us all, “Each one of you can get an A in my class. All you have to do is show up to class, complete your assignments, and learn for your experiences.” I didn’t believe her at first, but when she handed me my first assignment, and I saw that “A” on my paper, it proved that my past experiences don’t have to define me, and that I make my own future through hard work, and dedication. Over the last 3 years, the staff at ACC have transformed me into the student leader I am today.” Keep Moving Mountains Nate!

by Karen Browning, ACC Marketing Project Manager

ACC Alumni Spotlight: John Libby

ACC Alum John LibbyIn the fall of 1981, John started out as an 18 year-old ACC student. He was in student council that year and wrote for the school newspaper. He attended school with his mother, who started out with a GED and now holds a Master’s degree. ACC gave a poor kid from Brooklyn access to a better life, which is why he is so passionate about participation in the college and the scholarship programs for students. Eventually, ACC would be the higher education launch point for his wife, sister-in-law, and mother-in-law.

John values ACC because it gives access to all people. The education he received was from real life business professionals. Eventually, he would go on to have a successful career in Marketing, including becoming Retail Ad Director for The Rocky Mountain News, The Denver Post and Money Mailer. The training he received at ACC gave him the spring board to change his life and the lives of the numerous people he has trained in business and in the community. “Thank you ACC for the opportunities in my life and the opportunity to give back,” said John.

Additionally, he truly appreciates how ACC supports the community. Not only does it improve the quality of life for its students by giving them a place for affordable high quality training but it also supplies the nurses, accountants, auto mechanics and numerous other professionals that keep our society in Colorado a wonderful place to live. “I may sound like a commercial, but without ACC a huge void would be left in our community,” said John. He wishes we could introduce more students and involve more of the community in the gem of this institution – what it means and can mean.

Besides the valuable education you get at ACC, it is also a place to grow up and fit in. Yes, the Marine Corps Reserves helped John, as did his parents, but it was the bridge that he needed as a first generation college student before the university experience. Community is another huge benefit of ACC. John learned the value of society and ACC gave him the needed experience of giving back through donations as well as volunteer work. “I feel giving back is an important human need, ACC gives that opportunity to give back in a way that will help generations.”

Finally, John commented on how lifelong learning is an important part of experiencing all that life has to offer. He still continues to take 2 classes a year whether it’s Voice, Guitar, Spanish or a variety of other skills because it keeps his mind expanding. To quote Ray Kroc-“When you’re green, your growing. When you’re ripe, you rot.” ACC keeps your mind growing. John is ACC!

by Karen Browning, ACC Marketing Project Manager

Student Access Services at ACC – What it is and how to utilize it

Student Access Services (SAS) at ACC is the office dedicated to providing services for students in need of accommodations so that they can be successful in their education. Our SAS team works with every department on campus to encourage and celebrate accessibility, accountability and self-advocacy.

Services offered by SAS include:

  • Classroom accommodations
  • Test accommodations
  • Specialized orientations for support services
  • Self-advocacy training and ADAAA/Section 504 information
  • Curriculum materials in alternate formats
  • Referrals for resources such as tutoring, career services or other support services as necessary

Accommodations that SAS provides include:

  • Alternative text format
    • Electronic: PDF or Kurzweil
    • Braille, DAISY
  • Interpreting / Captioning
    • Sign Language
    • Real Time Captioning
  • Ergonomic Furniture
    • Adjustable Table
    • Ergonomic Seating
    • Ergonomic Keyboard, Mouse
  • Note Taker

*You are encouraged to request these accommodations at least 3-4 weeks before your first day of class.

Are you eligible for services?

If you are a registered ACC student with a disability, you qualify for accommodations. This can be a permanent condition or temporary (like breaking your arm and needing help with notes).

Be sure to follow our checklist to make sure you are on track with the steps you need to become an ACC student. It is important to complete as many of these steps as possible prior to meeting with a SAS specialist.

You’ll need to take a few additional steps to set up your accommodations, remembering to begin this process at least 4 weeks before the beginning of classes, if possible.  If you can’t gather your documentation or complete your intake form ahead of time, please come in anyway.

  1. Schedule an appointment with a SAS specialist. You can make your appointment by stopping by room M2720 at the Littleton campus, calling 303.797.5730 or requesting an appointment online. It can take up to a week to set-up your appointment, so plan accordingly.
  2. Fill out an Intake Form (PDF or online) before your scheduled appointment. This will give us an idea of what types of accommodations you need and what services we can provide to make your time at ACC as successful as possible.
  3. Bring or send recent documentation of a disability to SAS prior to your intake appointment.
  4. Meet with your SAS specialist and obtain an Accommodation Letter.
  5. Meet with your instructors and give them a copy of your Accommodation Letter.

It is important that you request your accommodations before classes start. This will get you off to the best possible start and ensure your success in your classes. Setting up accommodations can take some time and you don’t want to get behind.

Leia requests Accommodations video

You also need to be sure to set up testing accommodations with your instructor and the ACC Testing Center at least 7 days ahead of each test. Our instructors and Testing Center staff want to work with you to give you the best environment for testing for you, but they need time to make the necessary testing arrangements.

Chewy at the Testing Center

A disability doesn’t need to keep you from achieving your goals. Let our SAS specialists help you create an atmosphere where it is easier for you to learn and complete your studies. Learn how to advocate for yourself and your needs so you can get the help you need to accomplish your goals and Move Mountains!

Our SAS specialists are here to help. Contact them today in M2720 at the Littleton campus, email sas@arapahoe.edu or call 303.797.5730 (voice/TTY).

ACC Student Spotlight: Macey Smith

ACC student Macey SmithMacey is getting an associate degree and plans to transfer to a 4-year university for Music Recording Arts. She took classes at the ACC Castle Rock campus and really appreciated the one-on-one attention when talking with the front desk staff. She felt valued and welcomed how efficient everyone and everything was at the Castle Rock campus. “I don’t feel like one student in a million. They treat me like a human, where my needs are important and they value my needs. I am not just a number,” said Macey.

She never expected the overwhelming support she received at ACC. “Coming here I didn’t expect to have so many people to surround me and mentor me to be a better student, how to be a successful student and future professional. They treat me like family,” she reflected. Macey feels it has been a blessing to have that support, like a real community. Macey is ACC.

by Karen Browning, ACC Marketing Project Manager

Hot Topic Forum: Free Speech

Hot Topics logoGiven the charged political atmosphere we are living in, I’d like to invite you to a civil discussion of one of our most cherished rights as Americans – freedom of speech. It seems today that this subject sparks considerable confusion and debate.

Student Life and the Political Science department are sponsoring the semester’s first Hot Topic Forum next week on Wednesday January 31, at 2:30 p.m. in the Library.

Panelists will include Elijah Dicks, ACC History faculty and Ted Belteau, Educator and member of the ACLU.

Hope to see you there…

If you have a topic you would like us to discuss during a Hot Topic Forum, let me know. Email mary.carr@arapahoe.edu.

by Mary Carr, ACC Department Chair – Anthropology, Economics, Political Science & Sociology

ACC Community Spotlight: Colorado Center for the Blind (CCB)

Colorado Center for the Blind building signFor several years, ACC and the Colorado Center for the Blind (CCB) have been collaborating on Shared Visions, an accessible art exhibit. This last summer the two organizations also joined forces on an exhibit held at the US National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder. The dynamics between the ACC and CCB classes seems to inspire everyone, the students, teachers, and the public!

CCB students at potter's wheels at ACCCCB students dissecting sharks at ACCAnn Cunningham, an art teacher at CCB, said that the best thing about being a part of the ACC community were the quality of our instructors. “Nathan (Abels) and Katie (Caron) are both excellent artist as well as amazing teachers. Truly, I am very impressed with both of them,” said Ann.

The CCB curriculum is expanding because of the collaboration. The Center now has new methods to explore because of the newly acquired skills of their teachers. “I also know that when I need to ask questions Katie and Nathan will be there with answers. ACC’s generous donation of a pottery wheel will enable us to continue building our skills in our pottery program,” said Ann, of the graciously fostered partnership.

CCB logoThe Colorado Center for the Blind would certainly recommend ACC to others! CCB is completely impressed with the openness and sense of adventure that ACC instructors bring to the experience. In fact, some of the teachers would love to take classes here, moving beyond just a partnership but a true relationship with ACC. The Colorado Center for the Blind and ACC Move Mountains together!

by Karen Browning, ACC Marketing Project Manager

Why I Attend ACC and Joined Phi Theta Kappa

Camila Monroe, ACC studentNowadays, we hear everywhere about the importance of diversity; community colleges are the most diverse academic population anyone will be able to find. A quick walk around our school will illustrate that: we find overachieving high schoolers, coming back students, young adults pursuing a new career, international students, Hispanics, people of color, LGBTQ activists, Republicans and Democrats, mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers…and the list goes on. The differences in backgrounds, race, gender, political affiliation and age make community colleges the environment that we would like to see along the streets. It’s an environment where all of that diversity comes together to learn. Of course big universities might also offer that variety, but in community colleges that is a sure thing; one of the reasons is that nearly every person can afford that kind of education.

Which brings me to another point: we are at school because we want to – not because our parents do. We sign up for classes because we truly expect to learn, and to apply that obtained knowledge as soon as possible, whether it is towards a job or higher levels of education. We are goal-oriented students, and we will persevere in the journey towards that goal.

I joined PTK to become the VP of Honors in Action (HiA), a position that combined two things that I have a passion for: research and community service. I started my project that summer, and I have learned and grew so much ever since. I have had experiences with community service and journalism back in my home country of Brazil, doing something similar in a completely different language and culture was beyond challenging. But I succeeded, and as a consequence I started to engage more and more every day.

The success of that project made me thirsty for more; more friends than those amazing ones I had met at PTK, more outreach of my ideas on how we could improve our community, more ways to be part of my school beyond showing up and getting good grades. After my award-winning HiA, I joined many clubs, became a chemistry, biology and economics tutor at ACC, joined the Colorado Space Grant Program, and, finally, became president of student government and of our PTK chapter. I believe PTK is not only for those who were born ready, who had all resources available; it is also an honor society for those who overcame obstacles, who do not ignore, but recognize and even celebrate their imperfections. Those are the hard-working students, who understand that a leader is not born, but built, slowly, as a consequence of the never-ending process of bettering ourselves.

by Camila Monroe

ACC Student Spotlight: Leah Porter

ACC Student Leah PorterAt ACC, Leah received lots of support from administrators, faculty, and staff. When she realized she want more than just an associate degree, she reached out to several ACC employees and was offered help in fulfilling her goals and achieving her dreams.

Leah loves that ACC is small and that everybody is very nice. She also loves that ACC has a Dean of Students, Vice Presidents, and the President of the college walking around communicating with students. “Our school doesn’t preach inclusivity, we practice it,” said Leah. ACC has become her new family.

The three most valuable benefits Leah have received from ACC are:

  • Education
  • Confidence
  • Leadership skills

Leah tells people that if you want success, there are lots of resources available to help you find your success within the school or on a national level. She also said, “ACC changed my life. At ACC, I have achieved what I thought was impossible. I received awards from ACC and the national level.” She is the honoree in the PTK’s All Colorado Team, Coca-Cola Gold Scholar, Guistwhite Scholar, and ACC’s Rising Star. ACC is proud to have Leah as part of the family.

She graduated in May 2017 and is transferring to CU Denver for her Bachelor’s in Business Management. Her new goal is to pursue a Master’s Degree in Higher Education to inspire others the way she has been inspired. “My experience at ACC is beyond wonderful,” said Leah. She will continue to Move Mountains!

by Karen Browning, ACC Marketing Project Manager