With a week left until exams begin, most students are already neck-deep, drowning in papers, studying for practicals, and falling asleep in lectures. As many of us habitually procrastinate and then cram for finals, it is essential we find some sort of balance amidst the chaos.
Everyone has their own unique way of coping with stress, but discovering a few simple methods that work for you may be the key to better exam grades, and an easier time preparing for them.
Studying non-stop is not the wave. If you study for too long, retention decreases
and concentration is broken. In order for information to be grasped fully, it is critical that
you give your brain time to absorb everything that you have just learned. When you have a break, make sure to take care of yourself and stay on top of things like laundry, eating, showering, and taking some alone time as best you can.
On average, college students should be getting at least eight hours of sleep, but during finals week, it is not uncommon to get as many hours of sleep in a week as you should be getting in one night. Take a power nap! If you are not getting an adequate amount of sleep during the night, be sure to allot a sufficient amount of time to nap, or get at least one or two good night’s rest to prep your mind and body for recovery. This will improve your overall performance on exams, and enable you to retain more while studying.
It is so important to eat full meals and not just snacks during finals. It’s definitely easier to grab a bag of chips or nibble on fruit snacks or candy, but the best brain food is healthy, nutritious, and comes in an appropriate portion size. Fruits, vegetables, protein, and healthy carbohydrates are your best option. Fast food is tempting, but do try to avoid it if possible.
Most students will not have enough time for a full workout at the gym and that is okay! If you do, shout out to you for the dedication, but for those who only have a small amount of free time, there are plenty of options to make you feel better.
Take a short jog around the track, ride your bike, walk, or skate instead of driving to the nearby staples. Take a quick yoga or zumba class in the Wellness Center, or stretch while in your room before heading to the Learning Commons.
Short exercise breaks can help relieve stress, re-energize the body and mind, and burn off some of the not-so-healthy snacks many of us indulge in. If exercise is not for you, try meditation. Relaxing each of the muscle groups one by one and consciously releasing tension can be just as effective.
Identify Stressors and Plan Ahead
Before you can effectively manage stress, you have to understand and identify the problem at its source. After you have located the issue, immediately try to eliminate it or minimize the harm it is adding to your life. Additionally, don’t procrastinate. Easier said than done, but planning ahead of time allows you to regain control of your schedule, and makes it easier to manage any additional stressors or extracurricular activities.
Phones, laptops, and tablets can provide extraordinary tools for studying, but often distract students when they should be focusing on the task at hand. You can get a lot more studying done and will be less tempted by social media and friends if you turn your phone on silent, place it face down on your desk, or simply place it in your bookbag.
Hydrate and Don’t Abuse Caffeine
Your brain and body work best when they are hydrated! Not drinking enough water can cause fatigue, headaches, and make you think you are hungry when truly, you just need a tall glass of H2O. Keep in mind that caffeine dehydrates you more quickly, so for every coffee, latte, tea, or soft drink you grab to get you through the day, make sure to have a bottle or glass of water as well.
When things seem unmanageable, remind yourself to take it one day at a time, and breathe. Pain is temporary, and so is a single semester. Deep breathing has the ability to reduce tension and anxiety during times of stress, and if you don’t know where to start, YouTube has some wonderful breathing tutorials and guided meditation for beginners.
Taking care of yourself should always be a top priority, but especially during a week where nothing else seems to matter besides getting good exam grades. Take a walk. Listen to your favorite song. Catch up on your favorite show. Take a relaxing shower. Enjoy the present before you dwell on the future. Do one thing each day that makes you happy, and don’t forget to treat yo-self, because you deserve it!
If you have a couple minutes to yourself, try to call any family members, friends, or individuals who calm you down and keep you sane. Laughing is good for the soul, and a great conversation is a perfect way to provide a temporary escape from all of the overwhelming responsibilities of a college student.
Best of luck on finals everyone!
Photo courtesy of Florida National University