We all know the feeling of being overwhelmed for finals.
Some of us are sitting into the library until 1 AM panicking over exams. Others of us are sitting in our dorms cramming for finals while drinking an unhealthy amount of caffeine. Others are calculating the minimum score that they need on a final to pass a class.
Many people are stressing about what a single class will do to their GPAs.
Others have the added stressor of experiencing all of this stress from their childhood bedrooms. On top of all this, we're all living in the middle of a global pandemic. Everywhere we look, it seems as if we have good reasons to be overwhelmed.
Although we have good reasons to be overwhelmed, we also have good reasons to keep up hope.
I was stressing over a final paper the other day when a friend told me that I was doing a whole lot better than I thought. I'm here to tell you that you're doing a whole lot better than you think. Although your GPA is important, I'm here to tell you that who you are is a person is far more important. Although we're all fighting to keep it together, I'm here to tell you that we're also in this together. Here are five reminders to prioritize your mental health over your GPA during finals, because no grade is worth sacrificing your well-being.
1. Realize that your GPA doesn't define your worth.
I'm not saying that your GPA shouldn't matter to you. By all means, submit all your work. Study hard, but don't let your GPA define you. If we're being completely honest, your GPA should be one of the least interesting things about you. I hope that you won't walk around in ten years talking about your GPA. Instead, I hope you talk about lessons and experiences and opportunities. It's so easy to attach ourselves to a number or letter grade because that's what's expected in our society. Let's change that. I challenge you to spend some time unlearning that lie, whatever it might look like for you. Spend some time excelling in things that don't get graded—being a good friend, taking a drive, or going for ice cream. You're so loved and worthy of every good thing that comes your way. You're more than enough just as you are. Don't let one exam make you question any of these truths.
2. Understand that you don't have to earn rest.
So often, we train ourselves to avoid rest until we're finished with the task at hand. We act like rest is a reward. We act like we don't deserve rest when it's the one thing we need the most during finals. If you have time to stress about an exam, you also have time to take a nap. If you're feeling overwhelmed, the best thing you can do is give yourself a break. I know that many of us don't want to rest until we're finished with the semester, but remember that you don't need an official break to take care of yourself. Get some sleep, make your favorite snack, or go on a walk. Your work will still be there when you return. Make sure that you'll be fully there, too.
3. Remember that there's a difference between trying your best and overworking yourself.
I saw a post a few days ago that said that there's no award for overworked human of the year. Yes, that seems obvious, but so often, we live like we're competing for that award. Don't get me wrong. I hope you try your best in everything you do. I hope you have drive and follow through on what's expected of you. At the same time, I hope that you have the discernment to take a break. I hope you know that there's no exam in the world that is more important than your mental or physical health. Don't let perfect get in the way of good. Don't let an exam take away your love of learning. Do your best, but take care of yourself. You're worth more than your performance. There's nothing that you could do to make you more worthy, and there's nothing you can do to make you less worthy. Rest in that truth.
4. Don't worry too much about the outcome.
I've realized that some of the best things in life happen when we're not attached to the outcome. Yes, I know that when something is a large percentage of your grade, you're bound to stress out. I feel it, too. I've found that I'm more anxious when waiting for exam results than I am taking the exam. However, I also remember that there's nothing I can do to change the outcome of an exam after I turn it in to my professor. There's no way that a two hour exam is indicative of an entire semester of work, so it's unhealthy to act like it is. There's no exam score that will ensure world peace or make sure that everything will be perfect for humanity's future. Be realistic with yourself. Failure isn't final, and neither is success. One exam does not have the power to dictate your future. You won't be sitting in a rocking chair at eighty bragging about a perfect score on your final freshman year of college. In the same way, you won't obsess over a less-than-perfect grade months from now. You will graduate. You will get a job. Let go and give in to the process. You will be OK. I promise.
5. Keep your hopes up.
I'm a firm believer that attitude is everything. Go into each exam that you take with enthusiasm. I know that this sounds absolutely ridiculous, but there is power in being positive. I know that taking a two hour statistics exam probably isn't your first idea of fun, but there's no need to make yourself more miserable by dreading it. If you can't be enthusiastic about your exam, look ahead. Think of all you have to look forward to after finals week. You'll get to go home and hug your dog. You'll get to reconnect with friends in your hometown. You'll get to eat dinners around the table with your family again. There's so much good to come, so keep going. It will be worth it.
Friends, these next few weeks will be hard, but we will get through it. Here's to trying our best and being OK with the outcome, no matter what it might be. Remember that regardless of your performance, you are loved. You are brave. You are enough. No exam score will ever change your worth. Never forget that.