Finals week: the week where we all walk around like zombies and eat Doritos or whatever two-month-old frozen dinner we have left in our freezer. This is the week where we stop remembering to smile or leave our apartment or change out of our pajamas. You are probably asking yourself, why are we hearing about finals in January? Well, according to our trusted source on collegiate mental health, honors alumna and local psychiatrist Rachel Fiori, to have a stress-free finals week come May, you have to start now.
“Finals week doesn’t have to be stressful. It’s almost like a week off from school, if you do it right” Dr. Fiori said. The key – “Don’t wait until the week before finals to start preparing; you really need to start at the beginning of the semester.”
Let’s all work hard this semester AND let’s be happy while we do it. Here’s how:
1. Plan ahead. Yes, you can procrastinate, but you need to learn how to strategically procrastinate.
“Learn how to prioritize, and don’t sweat the small stuff – focus on what’s important,” Dr. Fiori said.
Prepare an attack plan at the start of the semester. When you allow yourself to be organized and prepared, studying for finals is reviewing what you have already learned. Finals week has the potential to be less about cramming new information and more about refreshing material learned earlier in the semester. Procrastinating is not bad, but we all know that there are things you can put off, like a short assigned reading, and things that need a head start, like a 20-page research paper on the localization of polysaccharides. Think ahead about what you can and cannot do – that way you don’t have to learn the hard way.
2. Sleep. No really, sleep. Your body and your mind need it.
“Sleep is important. Your brain needs that time to absorb all of that information,” Dr. Fiori said.
Everyone thinks that if you cram a few nights and forgo sleep that you will wake up the morning of your final not only with the brain capacity of Einstein, but feeling good. Feeling confident in your late-night study sessions. Yeah okay, you know the reality of the situation is that your eyes will feel heavy and your mind will be recycling the word “sleep” over and over and over. You might think caffeine is an easy fix to this problem – not so much. Dr. Fiori reminded us that when you overindulge with the caffeine, the jittery feeling can actually make you feel anxious. So now, you’re walking into your final tired and anxious. Rationalize with yourself here: there’s a really good chance that you won’t absorb much information if you’re exhausted, so work eight hours of sleep into your schedule during Finals Week (That’s eight hours every night, not eight hours total for the week).
3. Exercise. Even if you don’t think you have time.
“You can run on the elliptical while reviewing notecards, if you’re coordinated enough to do that, or just take a walk to clear your head,” Dr. Fiori said.
Exercise is just going to make you feel better. If you run a mile in the HPER, there’s a very good chance that you will be feeling way better than just ingesting your 6th cup of Starbucks. If you’re somewhere between your first final and your 5th final, take a yoga class. Allow yourself to breathe. Exercise actually forces you to do that.
4. Say “yes” when you are asked to do something fun. Give yourself a break.
“Some of my fondest memories of Dead Day have nothing to do with studying,” Dr. Fiori said. “During my freshman year, an ice storm cancelled a day of finals week, so my friends and I walked from Futrall Hall to Wendy’s in the snow. We would stop and play in the snow, and we went sledding. We really enjoyed it.”
Come on, let’s be honest: Saturday at 9 p.m. is probably not your peak study time. Just because you’re sitting in your room with a book doesn’t mean you’re actually studying. Allow yourself to have some fun during finals week. If your friend asks you to go to the movies, take two hours to yourself and enjoy something mindless. You’ll come back to your desk happy and relaxed, and that headspace is the perfect study aid for tackling finals week.