De-stressing for Finals

The time is upon us: finals. And here I thought I was done in May of 2014!

I always, always get stressed-out around finals, especially fall semester finals! With Christmas, the New Year, AND my papers and exams, it seems like I have so much on my plate.

Here are a few things that you can do to keep the stress of finals at bay:

  • Lay off the caffeine. Now hold on! I’m not telling you to drop it completely, but, as someone that has most certainly had periods of their life where they drank too much caffeine, I can tell you that my anxiety levels and overall stress are far less when I am not drinking things with caffeine. Caffeine is obviously a stimulant, but that doesn’t just keep you awake - it can heighten other things, too. You want to be able to focus, and caffeine can certainly help, but it can also cause as much damage as it can productivity. Find other ways to stay awake if you absolutely have to, like jumping jacks, a walk through the library, or some cold water.

  • Sleep. This is a lot easier to say than to follow through on. It’s hard to put down the books, computer, and notes when you’re focusing on acing a final, but what if I told you that you’re likely to perform better if you got a good night’s sleep. It sounds ridiculous to students, but it is so true.

  • Eat well. You have to eat to live, not live to eat. Complex carbs, protein, and getting the right amount of calories is important. If you go into a test on a stomach full of pizza, it’s not going to turn out well. Trust me; I did it!

  • Be organized. I cannot tell you how much learning to organize has changed my life. I credit an old boss and my craving for structure as to why I got organized. While I’m certainly not a pro, it’s made my work life so much more manageable. I color code everything. I write things down in a paper planner as well as in my Google Calendar. I set up reminders so that Alexa can tell me what I have coming up.

  • Basic hygiene is important. Don’t be one of those people that lives in the library during finals, that never showers and only brushes their teeth once a day. Please don’t. No one wants to be around that and you’ll get sick; your chances of getting sick during or after finals are already sky-high because the stress takes a number on your immune system. Don’t make things worse than what they need to be.

  • Makeup and comfortable clothes, with some effort. Did your mom ever say, “If you look good, you’ll feel good”? Did you roll your eyes? Well, I hate to tell you, but your mother was right! I used to hate putting on makeup every day, and if I did it, my skin would let me know how much it hated it, but since I discovered how to take care of my skin (see here), the makeup thing hasn’t been as much of a hassle. Also, you can certainly wear leggings, but maybe jazz it up a little bit. A sweater in place of a sweatshirt can do wonders to make you look more put together… and make you feel better, too.

  • And obviously… do your reading and work throughout the semester! I always do my best work in the crunch time, but that doesn’t mean that I need to put off reading. As someone that has a lot of trouble with retention, given how much I have to read and write, taking notes is super important. I highlight and write down whatever I think I really need to remember, and I go back and review it constantly. It takes up time, but it also saves time, too.

What to do if the stress gets to you:

  • Your Health > Your GPA. Your mental health will always win out over grades. Most colleges and universities are now devoting a lot of effort to making sure that their students are mentally well. Some schools even offer this service to students free of charge, or rather, the fees for this service are paid for at the beginning of the year. Many school counseling centers will have more people on call during finals than they would any other time of the year, because they know how this time can impact students.

    Put your school’s counseling center’s number in your phone. Know where the counseling center is. Know where they might be having remote sessions during finals.

    Maybe your school has some designated silent spaces around campus, rooms where no electronics, studying, or talking is allowed - rooms where you can just go and sit and be with yourself.

  • Let a trusted parent, loved one, or friend know what is going on. Accountability and reliability is everything to maintaining your mental health. If you are particularly close with a professor, let them know, too. They were once in your shoes and then some.

What are your tips for making it through finals? What do you do to de-stress?

Ali