How to Beat the Stress of Finals Week

It’s that time of year again. Libraries over flow with students whose eyes say they’ve only slept for four hours. Lecture notes and dirty laundry pile, but those hills are insignificant when compared to the mountains of stress. Finding time to eat seems impossible.

It’s finals week, but it doesn’t always have to be like this.

Even outside of exam season, students are already overwhelmed and anxious, so why not try to minimize the stresses finals week can bring? There’s no reason to sit in the library for 12 hours and cram until your eyes hurt. You can raise your GPA without forgoing your mental health in the process.

Keep reading if you want to prepare for final exams by:

  • Planning an organized schedule
  • Staying healthy
  • Setting up effective break time

Plan Your Week Ahead of Time

It can be hard to remember your schedule when worrying about several tests at once. Don’t try to keep these memos in your head. Write them down! Fortunately, planners come in all sorts of beautiful colors and designs to break up the monotony of finals week. Reviewing black and white lecture notes will become a struggle by day two, so use your planner as an opportunity for creative expression.

If you’re not confident in your handwriting, you can organize your week with apps such as Google Calendar. Sometimes, these online apps will allow you to sync calendars with friends. Share your plans with others to maintain accountability.

Review your agenda every night before you sleep, so you’re always ready for the next day’s tasks.

What to Add to Your Planner

  • Exam dates and times 
  • Know your exam schedule ahead. If you have more than two exams in one day, ask to move one of those exams.
  • Study time
  • Study each subject for a few hours over the course of several days instead of cramming for 12 hours one day before.
  • Break time
  • Without time for a break, you’ll be sure to burn out! Your breaks can be when you cook, clean, or relax.
  • Cleaning time
  • Keeping a neat workspace is often overlooked during finals week. The clutter in your bedroom can be representative of the clutter and stress in your mind. 
Hand Drawn January Planner
Bullet journaling, shown above, is a practical, yet engaging agenda setting style.

Fuel Your Mind and Body

If you want to remember an entire semester’s worth of material from several different subjects, you need to keep your mind and body nourished.

Avoid a diet consisting of only instant noodles and energy drinks. These kinds of meals will leave you feeling sluggish and unsatisfied. Instead, fuel your body with superfoods, such as sweet potatoes, avocados, apples, and broccoli. Making healthy food choices will keep you focused, energized, and happy. Even when you’re tempted to stress eat, make the most of these meals, too -- try an acai smoothie bowl to satisfy a sweet tooth.

Acai Smoothie Bowl with Assorted Fruits
Not sure what to eat? A basic rule of thumb is to incorporate as many “colors of the rainbow” as you can in your meals to maximize their nutrition values.

Along with diet, exercise is another way to keep your body healthy and stress levels low. It can be tough carving out time for exercise in-between studying, eating, and relaxing, so don’t think you need to complete a HIIT circuit -- just get your body moving.

Aim for 20 minutes of physical activity a day. You can run around the neighborhood in the morning or practice yoga in your bedroom before sleeping. Look forward to your morning run by asking a friend to join.

Did you know you can exercise your mind, too? If you start to feel anxious while studying, breathing exercises can help you return to the focused mindset you need. Repeat calming affirmations when stress makes you doubt your capabilities. 

Studying and exercise might leave you exhausted at the end of the day, which is why proper sleep is essential during finals week, and don’t bring your phone to bed! Phones disrupt sleep quality by suppressing melatonin, the chemical that makes us drowsy. Besides bedtime, it’s a smart idea to leave your phone alone, anyways.

Power Down, but Friend Up

Your phone can be your best friend or worst enemy during finals week. 

Checking one text message can easily lead to endlessly scrolling through entertaining videos instead of focusing on chemistry notes. If you’re prone to picking up your device every few minutes, try using an app that limits your screen time usage. If you’re studying with friends, ask them to withhold your device until you reach a certain point in your studies. 

One efficient way of balancing work time and screen time is through the Pomodoro Technique

How to Use the Pomodoro Technique

  • Prepare your study materials
  • Set a timer for 25 minutes
  • After you study for 25 minutes, take a five minute break
  • Repeat 25 minute rounds of studying until you’ve studied for 100 minutes
  • After 100 minutes of studying, take a longer (20-30 minutes) break
  •  Restart the Pomodoro Technique

Using this study method will minimize mental fatigue and help commit material to memory. You can even download a Pomodoro Technique extension onto your browser for an even easier way to study! Consider pairing this extension with one that blocks social sites until your break time.

Though deep dives onto social platforms are discouraged, don’t forget to block out some time for relaxation -- especially with friends. Support systems are crucial in stress management. Spend time with friends in ways that ease your mind, but won’t interfere with your study schedule. Don’t be afraid to share your finals week anxieties over a cup of coffee! Plan a movie night after a difficult exam. However you choose to spend time with friends, sharing a few laughs will leave you feeling rejuvenated and clear-minded. 

Don’t neglect alone time, either. Meditate before sleeping to release any negative energy accumulated throughout the day. Journal after waking up to reflect on your thoughts and moods during the week or treat yourself to your favorite lunch spot!

Four Women Laughing and Having a Drink
If the weather permits, try spending time with your friends outside -- after all, you’ve been in the library all day!

Last year’s exam week may have brought unwashed clothes and torn up packets of instant noodles, but this year will be different. This year, tranquility and preparation will replace finals stress. 

Repeat this to yourself, and write it in your journal: You will ace your exams!

For questions, partnerships, or to get covered on the GRW blog, click here.

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