Stress Less Week: Finals Survival Guide

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Welcome to the Winter 2014 Stress Less Week blog series! Learn more about how to host a Stress Less event on your campus. 

Are you about to experience your first-ever finals week? Maybe you’re an experienced finals-taker who is looking for a few tips to make things better this time around? We’ve got you covered.

1. Make a plan.Make a Plan
The more detailed you can be about what needs to happen between now and the end of your finals, the better. Plot out all of your test dates and assignment due dates in advance. Create smaller deadlines for yourself in-between so that you can see you’re making progress.

Also, know your priorities and give more attention to the things that are more pressing. You know what tests and assignments will be more difficult or important to obtaining the grade you’re wanting. Start there. Finally, schedule in breaks and sleep.

2. Maintain your healthy routines (or institute some).Maintain Your Routine Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t the time to change up your exercise and meal routines. Whatever keeps your nerves in check and makes your body feel energized– keep it up. It might be a run, some weightlifting, a spin class, or a walk. Likewise, your body needs vitamins to fend off end-of-semester illnesses and to boost energy. Make sure you’re eating balanced meals, and sticking to a fairly regular routine.

3. Regulate your caffeine.Regulate Caffeine Try not to drink any more caffeinated beverages than you would normally. Caffeine can mess up your sleep schedule and actually make you more physically anxious.

4. Clean up.Clean Up
If your notes are a mess, this is a great time to organize them. Plus, it gives you an extra chance to review them without the pressure of calling it “studying.” Also, a tidy work environment is helpful to many people and can be cathartic. Clean up your room or apartment. This simple act can help you feel like you have a clean slate.

5. Create a playlist.Make a Playlist Is music your thing? Take a half hour to create a studying playlist for your finals in your music program of choice. Try to choose music that will keep you calm, inspired, and energized.

6. Have a support system on call.Have a Support System
Make sure you have people you can lean on and vent to when things get hard. There are going to be frustrations during this time, and having a few people who you can call on when you’re tired and in a bad mood, without suffering any relationship consequences, is important.

7. Attend a test-taking skills workshop.Test Taking
See if your department, career center, tutoring center, or counseling center is sponsoring a test-taking skills workshop. These often occur in the couple of weeks before finals and can be very helpful in providing tips specific to your campus.

8. Learn some relaxation techniques.Relaxation Techniques
The simplest relaxation process is taking a few minutes to tense and relax your muscles from toes to head. Start with your feet, flex, and then relax as you breathe in and out. Then move to your calves, knees, quads, and on up to your shoulders and head. If you’re looking for guided relaxation, check this out.

9. BREATHE.Breathe
Be conscious of your breath. Typically when we experience anxiety our breath gets increasingly shallow. This shallowness is representative of the tight grip anxiety can have on us. Take deep breaths and breathe out the anxiety, especially when you sit down to take an exam. A minute or two at the start, mindfully breathing as you read through the exam questions, will help you work more efficiently. You’ve studied hard, you know your stuff, now breathe out the anxiety and get to work.

10. SLEEP.Sleep
This is often the first thing to go during finals week, but sleep tidies up your thought pathways and synthesizes the information you’ve been studying. Sleep makes the studying you do during your waking hours more productive and efficient. Not to mention the fact that you’ll be less grumpy and less likely to get sick during your winter break.

Finally, don’t be afraid to make an appointment at your counseling center if your stress is morphing from a motivator to an obstacle. When we cross from stress to anxiety, we often need to talk to a professional to learn some tools to cope healthfully.