Pandemic or not, it’s FINALS time for high school and college students. I’ve seen many Pinterest-worthy care package suggestions, but from the perspective of a physician who treats college students, here* is just what the doctor ordered: (*Please note that I have NO financial ties with these products, but I’m including those I use and recommend professionally for your convenience.)
- Eye Relief: Even without remote learning, this time of year brings sore, tired eyes from unending hours of computer use, with occasional corneal abrasions from falling asleep in contacts. Did you know we blink up to 66% less often when staring at screens? No wonder our eyes get so dried out! Encourage your student to help their aching eyes by switching to their prescription glasses and applying lubricating drops like Blink or Systane (NOT the “get the red out” ones, those actually aggravate the issue) every few hours while studying. In addition, take a daily midafternoon break by applying a soothing lubricant gel like Refresh Celluvisc and closing your eyes for a 5 minute escape.
- Neck and Back Relief: Speaking of long hours on laptops, how about their aching necks, shoulders, and backs? If time, money, and COVID are no object, a gift certificate for a massage would be lovely. For the other 99% of us, slapping on a couple menthol-based pain-relieving patches like Salon Pas or IcyHot can offer significant prolonged relief. Couple this with encouraging your student to set 30-minute timers, and each time it goes off, take one full minute to actively stretch. To fix the root of the problem (which is that laptops alone are never ergonomically sound) I also highly recommend computer stands like this one, paired with a wireless keyboard. Looking for more on this topic? Check out Ch. 27 “College is a Pain in the Neck” in The Ultimate College Student Health Handbook: Your Guide to Everything from Hangovers to Homesickness.
- Odor Relief-Have you ever walked into a dorm during finals week? Not judging, just saying that lack of personal hygiene and the lack of attention to laundry combine to produce unpleasant aromas. While many students are oblivious to the smell, nearly all appreciate a clean, fresh scent which decreases stress. Remember candles aren’t allowed in most dorms or apartments, so a simple plug in or stand-alone air freshener is great. Avoid flowery smells and go for “clean” not “perfume-y”; I prefer solids or gel beads.
- Heartburn Relief: Every midterm and finals week sends students to the campus clinic with heartburn…why? CAFFEINE. Okay, alcohol and nicotine play a role too, but I’m here to share that it’s mostly the Starbucks, Red Bulls and “energy shots”. As students hyper-caffeinate to fuel all-nighters, they are relaxing their lower esophageal sphincter, whose sole job it is to keep acid in the stomach and out of the esophagus. Caffeine, nicotine and alcohol all relax that little muscle, allowing stomach acid to slosh back up and cause heartburn. While I’d love to tell students to avoid or reduce caffeine, in the short term, I suggest acid relief with an antacid like these rather tasty TUMS Chewy Bites– all the antacid, none of the chalky residue. Just so you know: research has shown time and time again that you score better on that test if you go to sleep rather than stay up another couple hours later cramming in more studying.
- Hunger Relief: Confession time- my love language is homemade baked goods. My mom’s chocolate chip cookies (complete with her homemade granola added in for extra crunch) were legendary, and when my care packages arrived, I had nonstop visitors. At the end of the day, though, students need handy snacks to get through finals week, and if you can sneak in extra protein or nutrients, do it! A gift card for pizza is great for one meal; however, consider sending nuts and/or fruit if your kid enjoys those. Our family loves pecans, and I order from this small-town Texas store that brags “How ‘bout them nuts!” Please share your favorite local shops in the comments!
- Affirmation (and a Bit of Laundry) Relief: See above…not much laundry happens in the last couple weeks of school! If you’re looking for something fun, encouraging and practical to add in that care package, consider a pair or two of “you’ve got this” or school spirit socks or a t-shirt. While we don’t want to add to the volume that must be packed up when finals commence, sometimes it sends a supportive HUG to include these items, plus honestly, it’s something clean to wear- if only on their feet!
- Stress Relief: Who doesn’t love a great stress ball? While college girls are more likely to have their favorite stuffed animal stashed somewhere in their room, virtually everyone gets a smile from some type of comfort object or soothing blanket. At this point in the semester, we’re avoiding volume to pack up at the end, so an inexpensive but tactilely satisfying object is a fun “extra”. (Pictured is an Eepworm)
Bottom Line: Finals are SO STRESSFUL that they impact our student’s physical health as well as their mental health. Give your kid a boost by including these items in your care package!