Ladies and gentlemen, it's the end of the semester so you know what that means- it's almost time for the holiday break. Before you start celebrating for Christmas or Hanukkah, you need to pass the most difficult, weeks-long challenge of your college semester career. You're probably cramming in every last piece of information before facing the most strenuous exams or reciting your presentation speech over and over again until you've memorized and perfected it. While you suffer through the dreaded finals season, remember to use these tips to survive through the stress.
Brainstorm Your Priorities & Stressors
Creating a timeline of what exams or papers need to be done first can ease your stress on the upcoming deadlines. When you set yourself up to spend 1-2 days on each priority, you'll feel less worried about procrastinating and rushing a paper in between studying for two exams. Alongside writing down your priorities, write down stressors that often trigger you. If your procrastination stresses you, write it down next to your study timeline as a reminder that when you procrastinate, you'll only make yourself more anxious.
Start Studying Ahead Of Time
Our professors always tell us this and we often think it's a good idea but rarely ever follow through with it. Studying days or weeks ahead of the exam will allow your brain to slowly absorb all the information. Even if it feels like you have a million different deadlines right now, studying for even 20 minutes each day for that one big exam could help you in the long-run. For your paper, maybe write the introduction paragraph one day then come back to it and begin the next paragraph, continuing as each day passes.
Plan A Playlist
Sometimes we like complete silence when we study but the background noise around us can quickly prevent that from happening. Instead of letting the smallest noises distract you and stress you out, prepare for those noises ahead of time. Whether you prefer upbeat, party vibes or slow, acoustic songs, finding that perfect playlist for you is essential in getting your work done. Once you have that ideal stream of study music, you'll find that time flies by as you complete your work. Spotify even has an entirely separate genre labeled "Study" for the exact reason of keeping you on track while you get ready for those exams. Find the playlist for you that ensures you'll stay calm and on-task.
Find Your Study Spot
Coffee shops, the campus library, or even your bedroom, the study spot makes all the difference. I prefer going to a café or coffee shop so I've got access to endless caffeine as I spend hours studying. My favorite study spot is TLC Coffee Roasters because it's right by my campus, so I can stop by for an hour or two in between classes. When you find the spot perfect for you, you won't need to worry about surrounding distractions as an added source of anxiety. Find a comfortable, noise-appropriate study spot and make sure you can easily see yourself staying there for hours, if necessary.
Get A Study Buddy
Memorizing information or practicing a speech can be difficult to do alone. Finding a friend, classmate, or group member to study with can be extremely helpful to help prepare you. Explaining a lesson to your study buddy can often help you understand it better. Presenting your speech to a study buddy can help you practice your thought process and eye contact. The bonus is, you'll feel less stressed entirely because you'll know you're not going through it alone.
Exercise Or Stretch It Out
Exams, or even the thought of them, can be a major stressor in itself. As you continue to get stressed, your body builds up that tension. Taking a short break to exercise or stretch out your muscles can allow you to destress your body and resume in a healthier manner. After sitting in a chair for hours, your back might start to ache and a quick stretch could easily fix that. In yoga, it's believed that the more physically flexible you are, the more likely you are to be flexible in your mind. Stretching can improve energy levels, promote blood circulation, improve posture, and decrease lower back pain. Step away from the laptop screen or notebooks and take some time to stretch out your body or head to the gym for a quick exercise routine.
Review Multiple Times
It may sound like an obvious tip, but make sure you don't just study the material once then take the exam. Looking over the lessons multiple times can help embed the information into your brain. The more you review, the higher the chance you'll have of knowing even the smallest detail asked as an exam question. The more information you know, the less likely you'll freak out because you don't feel that you prepared sufficiently. If at least for your stress levels, be sure to adequately prepare yourself on the material.
Get Enough Sleep
While you may be stressing out, don't let your stress prevent you from sleeping. Even if you have to turn your phone off completely and stare at the ceiling until you drift off or take melatonin to assist you, getting enough sleep can destress you and allow your body and brain to rest. Going to bed at a reasonable hour will be much more beneficial than cramming in every piece of information until dawn and being exhausted during the exam. When people have a chance to sleep, the centers of the brain that control speed and accuracy are more active than those regions in people who haven't slept. Sleeping shortly after learning has shown to help retention. By getting enough sleep, your brain and body will be appreciative and well-rested.
Deep Breaths & Walk Away
Everyone handles stress differently and sometimes walking away from the stressor entirely can be the better choice. Yes, you have to return to studying eventually, but maybe stepping away from it can actually help you. When you find yourself getting anxious and a million different stressors are running through your head all at once, take a few deep breaths. Once you've done that, walk away from your study material and take a short break. Focus your attention on anything else that could calm you down. After you've calmed down and you feel ready to resume studying, head back to your study spot and continue. When you're stressed, your mind and body can't be beneficial, so taking a break or two from studying could evidently be the key to a successful study session.
Do Something You Love
Rewards are the best way to make yourself feel good again. As children, our mothers would reward us for good behavior or good grades. The same concept can be applied to studying for finals. After writing a few paragraphs or completing a few hours of studying, reward yourself with something you love to do. When we feel joy by doing something we love, our body releases dopamine and serotonin, two types of neurotransmitters in the brain. By doing something you perceive as happy, your brain releases these chemicals into your central nervous system. In other words, doing something you love makes the cells in your body feel happy and when you feel happy, your body fights stress and pain. Doing something you love can positively impact the chemicals released in your body and ultimately help you destress while getting ready for your exams.
Finals season stresses almost everyone out and if someone says it doesn't stress them, they're probably lying. Some of us anxiously have to plan for the dreaded finals season stressors before they even show. Using tips and tricks to counteract your stress can be the difference between a pass and fail grade. Be sure to manage your stress and apply any destresser technique that could assist you even in the slightest. Good luck with your finals!