It's three in the morning, and I can practically feel my eyes rolling into the back of my head as I struggle to absorb my third chemistry chapter of the night, the words shaking up and down as I fight every urge to simply put my head down and fall right asleep.
This is the fourth consecutive night I have pushed my body beyond its limits and stayed up way past my bedtime, and my brain feels as though it's about to burst with all the essays and exams I've somehow managed to get myself through this week.
Someone taps me on the shoulder, and I pause the intense classical music blasting through my headphones and turn around.
"Hey, I think I'm gonna head out. The limos aren't in service anymore, so I'm just gonna call MUPD. Will you text me when you get back to Straz so I know you're okay?"
I don't recognize the voice of my own best friend at first, the strain of the past couple of evenings paining her vocal cords and causing her to grow hoarse. Her body appears to be succumbing to the weight of all the textbooks shoveled into her backpack, as if her shoulders are pulling her into a puddle of pure exhaustion.
I simply nod my head and can feel my eyelids start to grow heavy almost instantly as I do so.
I watch her exit Raynor, put back in my headphones, and return to the torturous workload of what we college students call "dead week", or the week before finals in which any last-minute papers, final projects, and rushed homework assignments are due for the entire semester.
Last semester, I experienced all the joys and all the pains of my first-ever dead week, and, it almost killed me. I was in Raynor every night until at least 3 in the morning, struggling to finish everything on time while simultaneously trying to study for finals the following week, and there was one night I even contemplated staying there overnight instead of retreating to my dorm. I was a sleep-deprived, unkempt mess of a person the whole week, and wound up contracting a disgusting, sputtering cough that I had up until after Christmas. It was ridiculous, and while I did manage to make it through the end of the semester successfully, I am 100% positive that I could've done just as well (perhaps even better) if I had just slept a little bit more.
In fact, that's actually my goal for this semester's dead week: to make it through the week without almost collapsing walking to class Friday morning, my hands shaking from the excessive amounts of coffee I had consumed in an effort to keep myself going for "just one more day." I have decided that I am going to accomplish this goal in four different ways, all of which I now know are absolutely essential to staying sane during perhaps the most grueling week of the academic year.
Here are my top four tips for staying alive during dead week:
1. Make a schedule, and STICK TO IT!
This is where I went wrong during my first dead week. Before going into the week, I had written out everything I had to do and what days I should have things done by, in an attempt to keep myself organized and reduce my stress levels throughout the week. This is something that can be extremely beneficial and work if you keep up with it, which I didn't do; I was falling behind after day one. That being said, make sure your goals for each day are attainable. It is irrational to try and do everything for one class all in one night, so make sure you space things out and allow time to give yourself breaks!
2. Bring HEALTHY snacks.
It's important to keep your body fueled throughout the day and to keep yourself energized in natural, nutritious ways. While you may be tempted to reach for a bag of chips or a pint of Ben and Jerry's, studies have shown that healthier options like assorted fruits and vegetables will help improve focus and productivity.
3. Try to watch your caffeine intake.
Yes, coffee is amazing, and can help you push through writing two essays at 2 in the morning, but keep in mind that too much caffeine can stunt your productivity. This something that I can attest to, as the first day of dead week last semester, I drank about 4 cups of coffee in the hopes of keeping myself awake through it all. By 4 pm, I was crashing, felt absolutely terrible, and had to take about a 2-hour break to let the caffeine work itself out of my system.
4. Check up on your friends.
We are all in this together, after all, and even if you think you study better/are able to focus more when you're by yourself, it's super important to still make sure your friends are doing well. Text them and ask if they need anything when you take study breaks, send them motivational messages, or bring them their favorite snack if they seem super stressed; also, make sure they are taking care of themselves as well. Call them a limo from Raynor if you have to!
I wish you the best of luck with the end of the semester. Study hard (but not too hard!), and let's all go out with a bang!