“I’m just so done” — that’s what my friends and I keep telling each other. Unfortunately, the end of classes next week is not quite the end of the semester. Final exams remain our last hurdle left to leap before we can land softly in our beds to binge watch Netflix and settle in for a well-deserved winter nap. Often one of the most stressful weeks of the semester, finals can easily take a heavy toll on our health. To help you out, here are some carefully calculated steps you can take to make finals season as harmless as possible.
First, take a break. Yes, I know starting your preparation for finals with a break seems counterintuitive, but after this bizarre and particularly difficult semester, we deserve it. So take a day or two off — disconnect yourself completely from the worries of school. I’m telling you — just try to do nothing for 48 hours.
As students of a demanding and rigorous university, it’s easy to slip into the trap of feeling guilty for not being productive or for not being concerned about our next assignment. However, I encourage you to take comfort in the fact that you have worked tirelessly for the past 12 weeks — you can afford some time away from school. Only after you’ve enjoyed some Thanksgiving stuffing or slept on and off for 36 hours will I allow you to start thinking about exams.
This next step in my plan might be obvious, but it is important nevertheless. Start your exam preparation early, right after that break. I will admit that I am guilty of trying to cram every piece of knowledge into my brain the night before an exam — and I know that I’m definitely not the only one. In some ways, spending the night in Clem or going to bed when the sun’s coming up is a part of the experience. However, on top of the sleep deprivation, this process also creates more stress and anxiety as we incessantly worry about the mountain of material to get through.
To avoid the 12-hour period of heightened tension before an exam, start earlier — as in days earlier than when you normally would. An article from Stanford University explains the detrimental effects of cramming on both your body and your grades by way of fatigue, stress and irritability. You heard it here first — consider starting to review your notes days or even a week before your exam.
I know for some, studying as early as three days before an exam seems absurd, but it’s not as hard as you might think. I implemented this strategy during midterms by spending 30 minutes each night just reviewing notes starting five days before the exam. Of course, as the exam got closer I studied more, but I never crammed. Overall, my study experience was less stressful and more effective.
Now that we’ve established a strong foundation for finals, we need to keep in mind that finals are a lengthy effort strung together by periods of focus and moments of resentment. Studying for finals can make it easy to neglect other parts of our lives, including our mental and physical health. So make a point to get some exercise every day, whether that be a walk around the block or a virtual workout class. Just a little bit of physical activity can help keep us sane during one of the most stressful weeks of the semester.
Similarly, I believe it’s important to have another outlet besides exercise. I’ve been casually drawing this semester, but it could be anything — from origami to video games. The intent of the activity is to create a space outside of studying that you can rely on to reduce anxiety and allow your brain to breathe. So don’t worry if your hobby of choice isn’t some academic pursuit — the only requirements are that you enjoy the activity and that it takes your mind off of finals.
Making time for ourselves outside of academics is important, but I’d like to make my last point about caring for each other. Due to the nature of this semester, we might not be around each other to celebrate finishing a painfully arduous class or to comfort one another after a disappointingly difficult exam. Sending a short text to a friend out of the blue can go a long way. So as well as taking care of yourself, remember to also look outwards and show your care for others during these next few weeks — we’re almost there.
Mario Rosales is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at email@example.com