By now, you’ve become an old pro at handling any kind of academic stress that has come your way by reading the getting rid of academic stress article and the article on getting rid of midterm stress . But there is a new adversary lumbering towards you – finals stress! AAAHHHH!!!! Will this battle ever end?! Yes. Yes it will. After a week of madness. And with this article as a guide, you will emerge relatively unscathed and free.
Finals stress is bad because:
1) It is the fact that everything is coming to an end ALL AT ONCE that can lead to even the most prepared and organized person to become unraveled.
2) And, for the most part, the finals that are assigned are large comprehensive exams (read: it will be on EVERYTHING your professor has talked about all semester long, including but not limited to: side conversations or tangents, supplemental reading that was not absolutely required to be read for class, and those things that you swore you’d remember so you didn’t write them down in your notes) – which, even if you don’t have documented test anxiety can make a person quiver in their lecture hall seat and possibly do something messy and involuntary.
Let’s avoid that possible horror, shall we? Avoiding finals stress begins with preparing for it.
Best Ways to Avoid Finals Stress
To build off from the two previous articles on stress in academics (Academic Stress and Midterm Stress), it is so very important to stay organized. Especially at crunch time. If you have projects, papers, presentations or other forms of finals as well as exams this is doubly so. That calendar, whether paper or electronic, you created after reading the advice of getting rid of academic stress is your best friend right now – as well as the Post-it note system (using various colored Post-its that you can get from Amazon) for organizing assignments and breaking them down into manageable chunks you learned to use in the midterm stress article. Finals stress is just as easy to control, if not easier, if you keep these tools in your arsenal.
When finals start creeping up and finals stress starts to eat away at you, a good thing to do is to write in the dates for projects/papers/presentations as well as exams onto your calendar follow the color coding system explained previously (that is, for each class, a specific color is assigned to it…go look at the other articles already…geez). Having it on paper, or on a screen, is the perfect way to start seeing how much time everything will take. And you can take this a step further.
When I was struggling as an undergrad student to find enough seconds in the day to get ready for everything that I needed to finish during finals week, I found a daily schedule help. Yes, I realize that it sounds very VERY hyper-organized and more than just a bit over board. But, at this point in the semester, it might just be your best bet in getting everything accomplished and crushing the existence out of finals stress.
Breaking the day down into chunks (much like assignments with Post-it notes) makes the daunting sight of everything going on nearly simultaneously far more manageable – thus, making your finals stress a thing of the past. A good suggestion is to create a hourly timeline. Now, I’m not saying to include bathroom breaks or eating breaks into the schedule (that’s excessive), but it is an excellent way to divvy up your limited resource – your time. Studying especially benefits from this system of beating back finals stress.
Without a daily breakdown schedule to keep you going and to help manage the stress of finals, there would either be no motivation in the first place to actually start studying, or there is the chance that you would study for so long continuously that your brain will fry. Plus, if you allow set times for studying you won’t run the risk of cramming the night before; something, that no matter how many times students attempt to do, never works out to their advantage. Ever.
As you probably noticed, I am not a professional (and I don’t play one on television). So, I am not here to give you prescriptive amounts of time for how long to do X and how long to do Y. The creation of a finals schedule is completely individual. Start one way – say, an hour of studying or project work per class – and if it doesn’t seem to be working, change up the amounts of time you carve out to work on completing the class.
I have sometimes found that working for long extended periods of time on specific assignments works amazingly well, but studying for hour after hour does no good. Maybe that would work for you. Or the opposite. You never know until you try; and once you find that schedule that helps you to conquer finals stress, keep to it. Without keeping it up, all the work you have accomplished to this point might be up shit creek without a paddle.
And again, it is ever so so SO important to stress the importance of self-care during this point. If you happen to be attending a school that offers events or specifics days that are meant to help curb finals stress, go to them if you are needing a mental and physical break. Some schools offer days where animals form the local humane societies are brought in and you can pet them; others bring in massage chairs or actual professional massagers. Whatever it is that your schools offers, it there for you – definitely use it to your advantage.
Also, this goes without saying, but keep your hygiene up. Or at least try. And keep yourself fed and hydrated. There’s no point in smelling like death warmed over or being so hangry you could kill for even a package of stale pretzels from the vending machine. It won’t help you tackle finals stress. I’ve found Clif’s Bars (sold at Amazon) are a good snack/pick me up…but remember: they’re full of calories. Sure they’re better than candy bars, but remember moderation.
Finals stress is absolutely vanquishable, if you have the right tools in your handy dandy bat-utility belt (yes, that was a Batman reference…the cartoon). Keeping up with scheduling is the best and really the easiest way to help keep that overwhelming and at times crippling anxiety at bay and to keep yourself in good spirits and health.
You’ve got this. Now go kick some major ass.