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Tips to help manage stress during finals


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Along with relationships, taxes and climate change, testing for many people qualifies as a stress-inducing topic. Very few enjoy taking tests, let alone studying for them, and yet here we are at the end of the semester with finals at the doorstep. Now if you’re anything like me, there’s at least one or two finals you would rather not deal with, which likely makes the obligation to study for them that much more tiresome. That’s where my list comes in: to avoid stressing too much over exams, I’ve compiled a number of tips and tricks for healthy studying that may help ease the pain.

Plan time to study ahead of time

Time is a valuable commodity, but you want to make sure you have open windows of it devoted to your studies. Perhaps it goes without saying, but the best way to have your schedule on lock is to plan it out beforehand, preferably a day or so prior. If possible, set aside the time of day you are most alert and hold yourself to that timeslot. Any delay in your start, and you’re only more likely to put it off, keep putting it off, and keep putting if off some more.

Prioritize your subjects

Again, if you have multiple finals to study for, you probably have some you’re more worried about tackling than others. So, think of the subjects giving you the most jitters right now, and start from there. You’re much better off getting the hard work out of the way first while you’re still fresh, saving the subjects that require lesser brain power for later. Knowing that the worst of your study time is over can also add a substantial confidence boost as you continue on to easier subjects. 

Take periodic breaks

For me, a four or five hour nonstop study session only withers my brain to exhaustion; the likelihood of my concentration dipping only increases the longer I push myself. Recently, I have tried to counter this by taking short periods of reprieve every hour or so, and thus far have found that it only helps ideas and concepts stick around in my mind for longer. I think in general, people would be better off studying in short bursts rather than long ones. When you give yourself time to breathe and let the ideas you’re studying incubate, they’re often easier to recall because you’re not putting prolonged stress on your brain.

Do some exercise before you study

A sound mind and healthy body go hand in hand, so if you’re worried about a potential lack of alertness at the time of your studying, work on one to help wake up the other. I’ve found that taking a short walk or performing some stretches before I begin clears up my mind when it’s overly groggy. Exercise helps increase blood flow throughout the body, including the brain, where the added oxygen enables it to function better after clearing out any excess clutter.

 Listen to some inspirational music

Nervousness is not so far away from excitement and inspiration as one may think, and I would say finding the right song is an underrated method for bridging that gap. Generally speaking, the more a song deals with such concepts as overcoming the greatest of odds or pushing forward when things get tough, the better it helps me channel my nervous energy into something better: sheer confidence and determination. Think iconic: “Eye Of The Tiger,” the training montage song from “Rocky”—some song that makes you feel unstoppable, untouchable, and unbeatable.

Whatever that song may be for you, I would highly recommend listening to it as a means to psych yourself up before jumping into your studies.

Eat a Hearty Breakfast

People claim breakfast is the most important meal of the day for a reason: being the first meal of the day, it factors into one’s energy levels right from the get-go, playing a large role in how that energy will pan out over the remainder of the day. To maximize the potential for one’s energy before studying for finals, having a breakfast that emphasizes both protein and carbs will maximize the use of lasting energy for your brain. Make sure to include some fresh fruit as well to help you feel good and provide the proper nutrients you need to ace your class. I’ve personally found this to be the best recipe for success, no pun intended.

Set a reward for yourself when you finish

College life isn’t all about the work. The essays you write, the projects you complete, or in this case, the finals you study for—all of it makes up an important fraction of the overall experience, but not the whole picture. Hard and honest work holds great value toward your academics, but so do reasonable and fulfilling rewards for those efforts. In this regard, if there’s something you really want to do right after studying for final exams, save yourself time to do it at the end of your sessions. Set aside that time to treat yourself after a hard day’s studying, and you will find that your ideal reward tastes even sweeter than it would without putting in honest effort.

John Buday can be reached at [email protected].

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