Finals? Already? The box closes in, deadlines inching closer while to-do lists spill over like the coffee and energy drinks on your desk. College students roam around with bags under their eyes and stains on their sweatpants. Dead week, as my professor likes to call it. The overwhelming amount of stress college finals places on your mind, body and soul fares troubling. According to American College Health Association’s Fall 2018 National College Health Assessment, 31.9% of students reported stress affecting their academic performance—the leading cause over 30 other variables. However, stress does not disappear without some effort.
Read on for ways college students deal with stress leading up to finals week and discover the best de-stress method for you.
1. Mapping Out Goals
9 AM: Read chapter 1; 10 AM: Take quiz 1; 11 AM: Eat lunch. Writing out every to-do task feels like an accomplishment in itself. We need order, even if it means stalling work to plan for work. “I like mapping out what it is I have to do—more so in terms of not really relaxing but getting my life in order. I get overwhelmed if I have a ton of projects going on. If you think about it as breaking down more into ‘I’m going to spend some time thinking about this, or researching that,’ it’s more achievable,” Sydney Hayes said, a junior at the University of Florida. College students frequently struggle with time-management skills, but allotting time to small sections throughout the week helps with productivity. Consider using phone notification reminders, drop the activity and move on to another task. “I’ll reward myself. Like, if I write this page I can go and get Starbucks—little things like that to push me. It’s more accurate than instant gratification,” UF senior Leylany Rodriguez said. Practice delayed gratification. Alarm. Alarm. Deadlines approaching. Resist the temptation to enjoy activities now instead of later. After, reward yourself with a mini pizza party and Netflix—doing great sweetie.
2. Getting a Good Night’s Rest
We need at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night to properly function. “Sleep is really important. I wasn’t sleeping for a long time and then I got one night of sleep and I was like f–k, like wow. That’s a lot better,” Hayes said. A good night’s rest helps you absorb information and focus. “At least for me, six hours of sleep makes a complete difference. I’m able to think better, I’m more productive, and I don’t want to cry and drop out,” said Rodriguez. We stress to make deadlines meet by pulling all-nighters and drinking five-hour energy, but the real solution lies in sleep. Take time to relax and come back to your work well-rested. Adults need nap time too.
3. Watching TV
Shows allow us to escape from reality. Everyone seems so happy. After watching a fun show, I bring that happy energy back into my study time. “I watch Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Friends or The Office. Any comedy shows that are short because I can watch a 20-minute episode and get my mind off whatever is stressing me out, then go back to being productive,” said Rodriguez. Stick to routine shows. You don’t want to feel like you must watch the next episode, then the next and suddenly you binged the whole season. As soon as you get over this hurdle an array of new shows awaits to binge-watch.
4. Making Study Guides
Twenty-five chapters and 75 subsections and 500 vocab words, oh my! If professors don’t supply study guides, students feel helpless. So many concepts, definitions and information to memorize right? Instead of overwhelming yourself by rehearsing the textbook, make your own study guide. “Normally when I do test finals, if there’s a study guide, I write the entire thing down and answer it. I do that once a day, three days before the test,” UF sophomore Halley Lane said. Study guides exist as an exoskeleton of material learned throughout the semester—like a Powerpoint. Write down broad topics with key concepts underneath. Notice by limiting word-for-word reports, you conceptualize material better. Constantly ask yourself why questions or relate the material to yourself. Use your textbook to garner questions to ask later. Do not try this directly after reading since that information remains fresh in your mind. Question your understanding after a break or days later. These tips improve deeper understanding and minimize final exam worries.
5. Taking Time Off
Day after day without a break. Where are you Christmas? Desperately pleading for finals season to end does not erase finals stress, sadly. Would it be unheard of to enjoy yourself now? “You need to acknowledge you’re human. You’re not a machine. I feel like holy shit, why couldn’t I work an eight-hour shift and then write two essays? I need time off, I need to relax,” Hayes said. Phew, exactly what we need to hear. As an individual, managing a million goals at once sounds unreasonable. “Sometimes if I get overwhelmed, I need to get a day for myself. I’m like, ‘I have not stopped grinding for six days, so I’m just going to take today, I’m going to veg-out, watch TV, go hang out with my friends and I’ll deal with all this tomorrow,” Rodriguez said. Take the day for yourself, refresh your mind and recoup your energy. Your books await patiently for your return.
6. Asking Professors for Extensions
Somehow professors know when to schedule all important assignments around the same time. To deal with endless assignment stress, try asking for an extension. “I would communicate with your professors. If shit’s getting hard, especially during finals season, professors are really understanding—at least in my experience,” Hayes said. Forewarning: Don’t anticipate a yes. “Be careful when you write it. Don’t phrase it like you expect a deadline but if there is a way we could work together that I could maybe have more time or clarification. Professor’s sometimes think you understand and if you’re not saying anything, they just assume you do,” Hayes said. More importantly, don’t wait until the last minute. “You have to communicate with time. Don’t expect to communicate with them at 10 PM and your essay is due at 11. If you are overwhelmed, let them know beforehand. An extra day sometimes makes a world of difference,” said Rodriguez. A world of difference indeed. More time allows you a better chance at acing that assignment and giving it your all.
7. Visiting the Mind and Body Center
At the University of Florida, students benefit from this free resource meant for reducing stress. The Mind and Body Center resides in Peabody Hall near Library West. “I went to the biofeedback lab. It’s like a guided meditation. You go through the normal meditation steps, like deep regulating breathing but they have a sensor you can put on your finger. It connects to an iPad or your phone and reads your heart rate. The more you’re calmed down and focused, the more it interacts with the software; the more I relaxed the more it rained and filled up a little bowl,” said UF senior Hannah Bennett. Before a final exam, visit the Mind and Body Center or equivalent resource at your college to practice relaxation techniques.
8. Participating in Yoga/Meditation
Breathe in, breathe out. Focus on my voice: You got this. After following a quick yoga tutorial on YouTube in the comfort of my own home, I feel energized and relaxed. Tension builds up in our mind, subsequently accumulating in our body. “I go to yoga twice a week. I do that throughout the whole year though, but it’s especially important during this time of year. It’s not just finals because it’s registration this week too, I feel like that just makes it worse,” said UF sophomore Delaney Sullivan. Poses such as garudasana, better known as eagle pose, helps focus attention and release muscle tension. Together, yoga and meditation promote wellbeing. Light some incense, dim the lights, play meditation music and release the stress. Don’t forget to end your session with the best yoga pose ever—shavasana. Namaste.
9. Listening to Music
Music soothes the soul, but it also aids in your study routine. “I listen to classical music. Study music plays a lot of classical music that’s supposed to stimulate your brain to help you focus. Apparently if it has lyrics, your brain focuses more on the lyrics and trying to sing along than focusing on what you’re writing,” said Rodriguez. Music also corresponds to mood. Fast, upbeat music encourages your heart to beat faster—not good for de-stressing. Make an effort to listen to slower, softer music to reinforce relaxation. A pleasant piano piece warms my spirit. Instrumental, check. Classical, check.
10. Letting Out a Good Cry
Running your fingers through your hair again, re-writing another sentence for your final six-page paper with no improvement. Nothing works. Frustration builds up like a volcano in your head with nowhere to go but down. Here come the tears. I’ve dedicated many of my tears to academic stress. Either that or hitting on a pillow. “Sometimes you just got to cry. And that’s okay. You cry for 20 minutes, wipe your tears and keep on writing. That’s what you have to do,” said Rodriguez. Releasing that pent-up frustration, stress and fear through your tears actually produces calming effects. According to Psychology Today, crying relinquishes stress hormones, giving you that necessary high afterwards. So, in the words of Elsa, let it go.