4 Tricks To Outsmart Exam Stress and Survive Your Fall Finals

4 Tricks To Outsmart Exam Stress and Survive Your Fall Finals

Build resilience and find peace of mind during finals week with a few manageable tips and tricks.

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Finals are nearly here, my friends! We all know the struggle of completing those last few exams and papers before packing and preparing to go home for the winter holidays. Between cramming in assigned readings and meeting paper deadlines, relaxing and taking a break might be the last thing on your mind. However, practicing some simple tools for self-care will help improve your concentration, attention span, and memory. You don't have to survive the week on caffeine and minimal sleep! Fight the urge to allow your frazzled thoughts and nervous energy take over your life by trying out some of these tricks.

1. Find relief with a mind dump exercise

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Doing a "mind dump" is pretty much exactly what it sounds like, and there's truly no wrong way to do it. Put pen to paper and allow yourself to list everything on your mind, either in bullet form or in full sentences. This might include things you need to do (like "schedule dentist appointment"), assignments to be completed ("Philosophy paper, Art History flash cards, read Psych chapters 8-12"), or anything you're feeling/experiencing ("tired, overwhelmed, excited to go home for break"). Nothing is off-limits! After you're done, you can do whatever you want with this, hopefully at least feeling a bit lighter. It might be a relief to tear the paper up into a million pieces, or save it and use it as a baseline to get a study schedule started to prioritize exam dates, due dates, etc.

2. Take a breather & quiet your mind

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Practice a simple form of meditation by closing your eyes while seated, and just start to notice your breathing. Try not to get caught up in any racing thoughts or present worries - it is completely normal to experience this! However, you may notice that as you focus on your breathing, your thoughts become less prominent. Bring awareness to the feeling of air coming in your nostrils, allowing your ribcage and belly to expand, and exhale out your mouth naturally without forcing anything. Once you have spent a couple of minutes doing this, start to lengthen your inhales and exhales so they are of equal length. Inhale, mentally counting, "1, 2, 3, 4", then exhale through your mouth for 4 counts and continue for 5 to 10 minutes. This form of breathing is an ancient technique called "sama vritti" and promotes relaxation and clarity of mind.

3. Show your eyes some love

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If you've been staring at your computer screen and textbooks for hours on end, it's time to give your eyes a much-needed break. Researchers at The Vision Ergonomics Laboratory suggest increasing font size and switching your typical Times New Roman font to something more easily readable, like Verdana or Helvetica to reduce strain on your eyes. You should also be taking a short break from your screen at least every half hour.

Before you go to sleep at night, or during a mid-day break, rest with an eye pillow. The light weight of an eye pillow filled with rice or flax can be extra soothing and calming on the eyes. Additionally, eye pillows that utilize scents like lavender or eucalyptus add an extra sense of rejuvenation. Some eye pillow brands are designed to be microwaved for heat therapy, and almost all eye pillows can be placed in the freezer if you're craving a cooler touch. You can purchase one from Amazon (like this one) or do-it-yourself. Pour approximately one cup of uncooked rice that has a couple drops of your choice essential oil mixed in into a tube sock, then tie off the end before use.

4. Practice positive self-talk & re-pattern negative thoughts

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Researchers are finding that the way we talking to ourselves has the power to shape our perception of our abilities. When your self-talk and internal beliefs are negative, like believing you won't do well on an exam, you have poor study habits, or can't get out of the trap of procrastination, you might be unconsciously perpetuating behaviors that prove yourself right. When we affirm these negative beliefs, we are less likely to believe in our abilities to push through difficult or stressful times and therefore less likely to take productive steps towards tackling our challenges head-on.

Your negative self-perception might stem from completely legitimate sources - and it's important to validate that, too. I'm not asking you to put on rose-colored glasses and pretend like everything is OK when it clearly doesn't feel that way! For example, if you have anxiety that is provoked during finals week and consequently negatively impacts your sleep, ability to concentrate, and study effectively, you might not perform as well on tests as you potentially could. However, in realizing this, it's important to find ways you can take action and then affirm your ability to do so. Some examples are: "I am doing the best I can", "I can get through this", or "I am taking small steps towards success". It's important to also couple these positive statements with positive action so that you truly believe yourself when you repeat these statements. This might look like seeking support from a therapist, going to your professor's office hours and/or review sessions, creating a study schedule, or making sure you're drinking enough water every day.

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A list Of 15 Inspiring Words That Mean So Much

A single word can mean a lot.
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Positivity is so important in life. A lot of times we always go to quotes for empowerment but I have realized that just one word can be just as powerful. Here is a list of inspiring words.

1. Worthy

Realizing your self-worth is important. Self-worth can really make or break a persons personality. Always know that you are worthy of respect. And also, never compare yourself to others.

2. Courage

Be courageous in life. Life has so many opportunities so do not be scared to grasp any opportunity that comes your way. You have the ability to do anything you have your heart and mind set to do, even the things that frighten you.

3. Enough

When you are feeling down and feeling that nothing you do is ever good enough, know that you are more than enough. And yes there is always room for improvement but when it comes to my self-worth I always have to remind myself that I am enough.

4. Blessed

Be thankful. A lot of times we forget how blessed we are. We focus so much on stress and the bad things that are going on in our lives that we tend to forget all of the beautiful things we have in life.

5. Focus

Focus on your goals, focus on positive things, and focus on the ones you love. Do not focus on things that will keep you from not reaching your goals and people that do not have good intentions for your life.

6. Laugh

Laughing is one of the best forms of medicine. Life is truly better with laughter.

7. Warrior

Through the good and the bad you are a warrior. Be strong, soldier.

8. Seek

Seek new things. Allow yourself to grow in life. Do not just be stuck.

9. Faith

During the bad times, no matter the circumstances, have faith that everything will be all right.

10. Live

Start living because life is honestly way too short. Live life the way you want to live. Do not let anyone try to control you.

11. Enjoy

Enjoy everything that life has to offer. Enjoy even the littlest of things because, as I said before, life is short. And plus, there is no time to live life with regrets.

12. Believe

Believe in yourself and never stop. Believing in yourself brings so many blessings and opportunities in your life.

13. Serendipity

A lot of times we look for things to fill an empty void that we have. Usually what we are looking for comes when we are not looking at all. Your serendipity will come.

14. Create

Share your ideas with the world. Creativity brings change to your life. However you chose to use your creativity do not be scared to show your intelligence, talent, and passion.

15. Love

The world is already full of so much hate, so love unconditionally with all your heart.

Cover Image Credit: Tanveer Naseer

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Fiction: Whitewashed

In a world where racial roles are reversed, a white girl experiences what it's like to be a person of color.

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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales and incidents are either the products of the author's imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.

This piece is inspired by photographer Chris Buck's "Let's Talk About Race" photo essay in O, The Oprah Magazine's May 2017 issue.

The white girl woke up to the sunlight streaming from her window and the distant noises of the television in the background. As she got ready for the long day ahead of her, she reached for her makeup and found her favorite concealer — but discovered, to her dismay, that the container of pale, eggshell-colored liquid was empty. Sighing, she added a mental note to buy more concealer this evening, if she could find the right shade.

As the girl headed down the stairs, the distant noises of the TV became louder and clearer. "Shooting Of White, Unarmed Man By Black Police Officer," blasted the headline. As the newscaster detailed the events of the shooting, the girl felt angry and frustrated. How long would it take, how many shootings before everyone realized that these were not coincidences or mistakes, and that these shootings were a result of preconceived notions about race?

The girl felt a sudden wave of sickness. Without eating breakfast, she headed straight for her car. The radio was on and was describing the shooting of the white male in extreme detail. The girl, her light-colored fingers gripping the steering wheel so that they appeared even whiter, could barely summon the energy to switch the radio knob off.

The girl barely managed the one-hour drive it took to get to her day job at a nail salon. As she entered the shop, she could see the beginnings of a long day — groups of Asian women, clutching their phones to their ears or gossiping to other Asian women in Vietnamese, cluttered the salon and waited for their nails to be done.

The owner of the nail salon, a short, middle-aged white man, greeted the girl. His eyes seemed sad, as if he had also heard the news about the police shooting. He directed her towards her first customer, a Chinese woman who looked like she drove an SUV and had three all-star athletic children. As the girl approached, the woman didn't even acknowledge her; instead, she seemed to be arguing in Cantonese on her phone.

The girl cycled through five customers before her lunch break. She moved to the back corner and opened her lunch box, which contained potato salad and half of a broccoli casserole. As she was digging into her food, she noticed a Vietnamese woman sniffing the air. The woman wrinkled her nose, leaned over to her friend and asked in a loud whisper, "What is that smell?"

The girl was embarrassed, but this wasn't the first time this had happened. She had brought some meatloaf a few weeks ago, and all the customers had stared at her until she moved into the back room of the salon.

After her lunch break, the girl went back to the endless stream of women needing their nails done. Finally, the clock chimed nine o'clock, the final few customers left and the girl was free to leave.

Remembering her promise earlier to buy some more concealer, the girl decided a quick stop to the local drugstore was necessary. She browsed through the aisles, but she couldn't seem to find her perfect shade. Instead, there were rows and rows of brown, yellow and black foundation, but almost no white or lighter-colored makeup. The ones that were closer to white were still too tan and dark for the girl's pale, creamy skin.

As the girl was reminiscing on her bad fortune, she caught ear of an argument a few aisles next to her. "Why are you speaking English? We're in America. There's no official language."

The girl peered over and saw a Hispanic man confronting a white man. The Hispanic man continued on: "Why did your ancestors come over here, two hundred years ago? I mean, you weren't welcome, and you aren't now either. The native Americans should have built a wall to keep you criminals and scoundrels out." With that said, the Hispanic man left the white man in the dust, gaping.

As the white girl drove home, she couldn't stop thinking about the unfairness of the world. Why did she have to live in a world where her every action, her every thought was dictated by the color of her skin? Why did she have to live in a world where preconceived notions of race played the biggest part in determining the future of an individual? Why did she have to live in a world where the phrase "equality and justice for all" were merely words every schoolchild said every morning and then promptly forgot? Why did she live in a world where her status in life and how others perceived her were all based on something that she couldn't control?

In no way is this fiction piece meant to offend or anger anyone. This piece was written solely to open the eyes and minds of everyone, white and non-white, to the struggles people of color face every day, because only through open minds and hearts can we progress as a society.


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