For many people, finals week during college is a rite of passage. Coffee becomes your best friend. At any given time, you might encounter someone crying. And the library suddenly becomes a social space. In fact, one student told us that their library had to ban sleeping bags because people would stay overnight to “optimize their study time.”
While finals (and the resulting finals’ memes) may be entertaining, the negative impact that finals have on students’ mental health is not. At its highest volume, the word ‘finals’ was mentioned in our Crisis Trends data 15x more in one week than it was in the entire two months leading up to finals. The word ‘semester’ was mentioned twice as often. Some other unique words included ‘exam,’ ‘essay,’ and ‘physics’ (we definitely feel that last one).
There are endless blog posts on how to study and be successful during finals. But at the end of the day, the most important thing you can do at the end of the semester is be proactive about your self-care. Here are eight tips for surviving (and dare we say, thriving) during finals week:
1. Have a Self-Care Plan in Place
Leading up to finals, make a self-care plan. Small things like preparing snacks and having positive playlists to listen to can make a huge difference when you sit down to study. Decide what steps you will take when you start to feel overwhelmed. Many schools may also have events sent up during finals meant to help students relax.
For a full list of resources, check out our referrals page. And of course, if the stress starts to get overwhelming, you can always text a Crisis Counselor at 741741.
2. Minimize “Stress Bragging”
When we’re surrounded by others doing the same thing as us, our natural instinct is to compare. During finals week, phrases like “Oh, I only slept 2 hours last night” and “This is my sixth cup of coffee today,” seem commonplace. That’s exactly the problem. By bragging about how unwell we are during finals, we set the expectation that not taking care of yourself is a prerequisite to being successful during finals. Glorifying stress is not a good thing, and it certainly doesn’t mark you as a better student. Encourage those around you to practice self-care too.
3. Listen to your body
It’s common during finals to develop tunnel vision. Life becomes studying, eating, and sleeping; that’s it. As a result, we may neglect our other physical needs. Be mindful of your body as you go throughout the day. If something is starting to hurt, get up and take a walk. Not feeling ready to sleep even though it’s late at night? Maybe don’t drink that next coffee. Your body knows you and what you need to stay healthy.
4. Give yourself the proper nutrition
When we’re stressed, our nutrition tends to go out the window. We might think we’re “too busy” for a meal and grab whatever can be eaten on the go. Plus we might be chugging caffeinated drinks. In order to feel your best during finals season, try to keep your eating habits as normal as possible. Your schedule is never too busy for a real meal. And drink plenty of water. Hydration is an easy way to take care of yourself when deep in an all-day finals’ study session.
5. Protect your sleep
Sleep is critical during finals week. It may be tempting to pull an all-nighter for that exam you have in the morning. If anything, you should aim to get more than sleep than usual the night before an exam so that you have enough time to get ready for it in the morning without being rushed. There is also a large amount of research on the connection between sleep and mental health.
6. Reward Yourself For Your Achievements
You may think about finishing your exam and then immediately going to study for the next one, out of fear of losing momentum. Give yourself the time to recharge. Watch an episode or two of your favorite show. Play a silly game on your phone. Make a playlist of your favorite songs. It’s okay to spend a little bit of time not thinking about school. You’ll feel more refreshed when it’s time get working again.
7. Make Plans With Friends
One of the best things you can do for your mental health during finals is socialize. Depending on your friends’ schedules, this could be anything from studying together in the library to heading off campus for a quick snack. Making plans ahead of time forces you to take breaks in your day; plus, it allows you to check on friends who may be struggling.
8. Remember this is all temporary
Your grades are not a reflection of your self-worth. School does not determine the rest of your life. Things may be hard right now, but you’re able to get through it. This stress is temporary. And if you need help, don’t be afraid to reach out. Your friends, classmates, and professors want to help you succeed. You can also text one of our Crisis Counselors at 741741. You don’t have to struggle by yourself.