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My advice to survive finals week

Reframing the mind to take it slow and easy and make the most of a stressful period of work

<p>Ella Powell is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at life@cavalierdaily.com.&nbsp;</p>

Ella Powell is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at life@cavalierdaily.com. 

Dancing in the Songbyrd Music House, I was showered by the radiant sound of my favorite band, Winter, and the melodious shoegaze prods of the headlining band, Taniukuchan — in the midst of finals week last spring. All of the stress that had been consuming my mind and body was lifted in an instant — the warmth and ambiance felt like a nice long hug holding me together. My sanity returned to me in this moment of contentment that occurred during finals or “hell week” as many call it, and rightfully so. 

Leading up to the concert, my mind spiraled through the long list of tasks that demanded my unending attention — four papers and looming exams haunted me. The impossible demands of finals week create the illusion of lacking enough time to do anything outside of academics. Even making dinner for myself becomes an incredible feat. Now approaching my fifth finals season as a third year at the University, the trick for me to survive this time has been to force myself to go out and have fun. 

If I am stuck in a “freeze state,” unable to start any of my work because there’s just too much to grapple with all at once, this is the best time to take a breather. No amount of deep, articulate worrying is going to change the flood of tasks that will inevitably have to come to fruition before the semester’s end. I can, however, readily change my frame of mind and return to my work ready to tackle the load.

The simple act of going outside has proven time and time again to heighten my mood and activity level. I leave the crammed and fixed space of my room that always remains the same and gain a sense of clarity over the many thoughts spiraling within my head. I do not need to sit wavering on my bed for hours writing a paper and looking at the same Steve Lacy poster. I need variety in my environment and stimulating activities to take my mind off of the grind for a little bit and recharge.

I often like to schedule an event or two for myself in advance to look forward to during the week. This could take the form of simply scheduling some time to read a non-academic book or going to see a movie with friends. The concert I attended last finals season provided me with the hope and energy I needed to keep going and finish my semester out strong. If that event you want to attend lands in the middle of finals week, don’t worry —it could actually save you. Working the concert into my finals schedule forced me to take a break without any associated guilt. I returned with a refocused mind ready to finish the semester out strong.

Even in times when work in fact does need to get done, finding a fun space to have a study date with myself or friends can be transformative. There are several beautiful cafes in Charlottesville such as the Twisted Branch Tea Bazaar downtown or C’ville Coffee and Wine that provide the ambiance I need to start checking boxes off my to-do list. 

I am flooded with a sense of accountability when I’m in a public space. Not to mention the delectable sweet treats available to indulge in as a reward for all of the effort that goes into my work. Locking in to do work in the proximity of others is helpful to know that I am supported throughout my struggles. There is a conjoined sense of productivity within these spaces that is nice to observe — and the people watching can be nice too. 

Each semester, I persist and persevere with the rest of the University during finals season. This is a time when everyone is meticulously studying and perfecting projects before the finish line, so it can be a helpful reminder to slow down and take it easy. Slow is beautiful — as I’m often reminded by the wooden sign I have in my kitchen with the phrase carved into it alongside a smiling snail. 

Finals can be a struggle. I have been brought to tears many times during finals week, but establishing a hopeful and positive attitude is key to transforming finals week into a more pleasant experience. Go buy yourself a bag of candy and camp out at Clem with some buddies if you have to. The work will get done, and you can do it — I believe in you.

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