Getting Through Finals

It’s that time of year again— the one that we all simultaneously love and hate. Love, because summer is so close we can feel it around us— in the sun staying up later each night, in the warm, humid air that surrounds us as we spend more time outdoors, in the green as far as the eye can see. But hate because of the grueling hours of testing we have to make it past before we can think about those three glorious months of freedom. While this is the hardest time of the year, and we should be more motivated than ever, it’s harder than ever just to stay focused in class. So, how do we deal with it? Here are a few strategies to help:

  1. Make a plan. What are your goals in each class? How are you going to accomplish them? Be specific and prioritize the classes you need to spend more time on. Your teachers are also there to help! Also, try to avoid procrastination as much as possible. If some classes are assigning projects instead of a final exam, get them done early—that way, you can focus solely on studying later on. For exams, try to study a little every day—even if it’s not much, it adds up, and spacing out your studying can help you avoid last-minute cramming.
  2. Take breaks. We all wish we had the motivation to study all day, but let’s be honest—that doesn’t work. While taking time away from studying for relaxation may seem counterproductive, it actually helps you focus. Set time to do something you enjoy, such as hanging out with friends, going for a walk, or playing an instrument. Especially if you like to relax by looking at social media, set a timer to remind you to get back to work. It’s easy to get distracted!
  3. Know what works for you. Do you like to study with music or quiet? Where is your favorite place to get work done? Do you prefer to work alone or in a group? How much time can you focus before you need to take a break? What study techniques work best for you? Everyone is different— what your friends do will not always work for you. It can be frustrating when it feels like some people are having a much easier time than you, but the only thing you can do is give it your best effort and be proud of what you can accomplish, instead of comparing yourself to others.
  4. Keep up your physical health. The three biggest priorities are nutrition, sleep, and exercise.
    1. Nutrition— Studying requires a lot of energy- make sure to eat enough, and eat food that makes you feel good. Of course, what this means is different for everyone. The key is to listen to your body and let it tell you what is best.
    2. Sleep— We need about 8-10 hours of sleep every night, even though this can seem impossible. But while one day of less sleep won’t make that much of a difference, sleeping less on a daily basis can hurt your performance, even if you don’t notice it. Set a consistent bedtime and stick to it. If you can’t fall asleep, try staying away from screens for some time before going to bed and avoiding caffeine in the later half of the day. To fall asleep, try reading a book, listening to music, or doing breathing exercises- anything that relaxes you. You’ll be surprised how much easier it is to focus after a good night’s sleep!
    3. Exercise— It may be hard to find the time and energy to work out, but try to do whatever you can! Whether this means a long run or 10 minutes of yoga, any kind of movement can help you feel happier and less stressed. This is always important, but during the high-anxiety period leading up to finals, it is even more so.

Right now, the upcoming weeks may seem daunting, but trust me— take it one day at a time and it will be over before you know it. Soon you can finally turn your attention over to your summer vacation and a well-deserved break!