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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An Honest Review Of ItWorks! From Someone Who Doesn't Sell The Products

No, I'm not looking for you to "join a team" or begin any challenges.
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I'm sure you've seen your friends on Facebook transition from friend to salesman. Whether it be for Scentsy, LipSense, or AdvoCare; multi-level marketing companies are on the rise thanks to social media. ItWorks! remains one of the most prominent.

ItWorks! is a health and wellness company using primarily plant-based ingredients without any artificial sweeteners or coloring. Their "number one seller" is the famous body wraps but the company is mostly weight loss supplements and vitamins. The company has a passion for the natural over the synthetic. Co-founder Mark Pentecost states on the site's Our History page that "you want to know that you're putting the very best things in your body."

Since most reviews of these products come from distributors, who are therefore biased, I have reviewed three of their greatest products and one I believe you should avoid.

1. Greens™ Blend Chocolate

As a vegan, I sometimes have to double check that I'm receiving the proper nutrients. ItWorks! Greens have been saving my life lately. It contains 52 herbs and nutrient-rich superfoods as well as 34 fruits and veggies. It is meant to alkalize, balance, and detoxify.

This is my favorite product! It gives me energy and even fills in for breakfast sometimes. It honestly makes me feel great. Then again... they always said eating all your fruits and veggies would!

ItWorks! gives you those healthy servings in a delicious chocolate flavor (which is bomb with almond milk). Make sure you use a blender bottle or blender. Like many powdered supplements, it can have that grainy aftertaste.

2. Advanced Formula Fat Fighter™

The idea behind this supplement is that it’s "okay to indulge if you have your Fat Fighters." Basically, if you just must have that sweet treat or piece of bread then you can take this pill within an hour to prevent your body from absorbing the carbs and a portion of the fats. If you're anything like me, you eat what you want when you want, so you'll end up taking these pills on the daily.

The main reason I like the Fat Fighters is that they reduce cravings and I normally have such a sweet tooth!

3. ThermoFIGHT™

This product is meant to increase calorie burning, boost the rate of your metabolism, and boost your energy. Like with Greens, I definitely feel energized when I take this supplement. Not in a jittery or wired way, either.

They say "abs start in the kitchen" but I'll try and cheat the system when I can!

4. Ultimate Body Applicator™ and Defining Gel™

This is the ItWorks! claim to fame... and that ASTOUNDS me.

I used to be so skeptical of this company because of the wraps. I tried them three different times and was not impressed each time. The ultimate body applicator and defining gel are meant to tighten and tone the skin to redefine the appearance of your body’s contour. Sure, you'll receive those results... just at an outrageous price. It's an expensive product that requires a lot of re-purchasing in order to receive any drastic results. Not to mention the most drastic results are just reduction of water weight.

They're really just an overpriced skin firming lotion. I suggest finding a nice cream from Target and sitting in the sauna instead.

If your facebook-friend-turned-salesman pushes for you to buy the wraps, just remember that I warned you.

I would like to give an honorary mention to KetoCoffee (probably their second most popular item). Because it is not vegan, I have not given it a try. I have heard amazing things from multiple women, though. Most keto coffee recipes give people the shakes and amp them up too hard. I've heard that ItWorks! has perfected the recipe.

I have used the first three products for a little over three months now. Sometimes I am inconsistent and miss servings. However, I match these products with a vegan diet (mostly whole foods based) and 3-4 days of exercise. I do not have drastic results but I have lost a little over ten pounds and feel great each day. I plan to remain a customer with this company (I have Greens on Autoship!).

I feel so blessed to be a Loyal Customer with ItWorks! because I receive up to 40% off and free shipping after three months. Without this discount, I probably never would have given this company a second thought. I highly recommend going that route because, well...

Cover Image Credit: Savanah Garcia | Instagram

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What I Learned After I Kept A Gratitude Journal For A Semester

Even the worst days, have one good thing.

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In high school, I was assigned to write three things I was grateful for a whole semester. We each got a brand new composition notebook and were told it would be checked monthly. At first, I was annoyed about having another (what I thought at the time) pointless assignment. However, like any assignment, I did it because it was for a grade.

Every day I scribbled down something I was thankful for in my life. In the beginning, it was easy. I would hastily write family member names, friends, internet...but after a week, I realized I would have to spend more than a minute writing in my journal. Repetition was not allowed, so as the semester went by, my list of three eventually became very specific. I would write that I thankful for the teacher not collecting the homework I forgot to do or receiving a new pair of shoes. It became to the point where whenever something good happened during the day I would think, "I can add this to my gratitude journal today!"

Suddenly, everything I was doing became a moment of gratitude. My friend sharing Cheez-its with me, despite her doing so for the whole of high school was a reason to be thankful. I was grateful that my shoes not getting soaked in the rain even though the rain made me late.

My mindset changed positively after a semester of recording reasons to be grateful. I say thank you much more than I did prior to keeping the journal. I realized I am grateful for every little thing in my life. However, combining everything as one clump of things to be thankful for makes you lose sight of the everyday occurrences that make you feel happy in that moment of that particular day. The worst day can make it seem like nothing is going right. Yet a simple act such as eating dinner with a friend can reverse the terrible day just because you are able to see them.

Searching for the list of three is not to undermine struggles or bad days. Instead, it helps you power through the miserable ones and amplifies the best ones. Sometimes the fact that your socks are dry can be the reason you feel like you have not had the worst day in the world.

It has been two years after this assignment and I still do this exercise. It has become more of an unconscious habit now. Anytime I experience anything that makes me happy, I add it to my growing list of gratitude. Often times, it is more than a list of three.

It sounds cliche, but some blessings are disguised very well.

As it is the beginning of a new year, perhaps one resolution (if you don't have one or if you do add it to the list), can be writing down at least three things you are grateful for daily. Without a doubt, I can say that practicing gratitude has made me a happier person overall.

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