Try This Tuesday: Managing Finals Stress

It's hard to believe that the semester is almost over — it feels like August was just yesterday (except when it feels like August was two years ago). With the end in sight, a much-needed break is just around the corner; the problem is between now and that break is a huge obstacle: final exams. This week’s Try This Tuesday is designed to provide a few tips to help manage some of the stress associated with finals.

First off, I would like to encourage everyone to remember to take care of their bodies over the next few weeks. Sleep tends to get greatly reduced, if not outright abandoned during finals week. Eating habits often go downhill as well (either overeating or forgetting to eat), and exercise gets neglected. Remember that if you take care of your body, it will take care of you, so make sure you get enough sleep, try to eat a vaguely balanced diet, and maintain at least some level of movement. Cuts can be made in some of these areas (e.g., eating out a bit more, going for a walk rather than going to the gym), but try to maintain as much consistency as you can.

Secondly, work to develop a study plan and try to stick to it. Writing it out can be a good way to help you think through your plan. Many folks like to start by completing the smaller, easier tasks first (I call this cherry picking), while others prefer to tackle the biggest assignments to get them out of the way. Whatever works best for you, come up with a plan then implement it. Also, setting concrete goals for your studying makes it more likely you will follow through with your plans. “Study biology” is a little vague, while “review the slides from the first three lectures” is more specific and easier to complete. Many of you have been through finals before, so lean on study habits that have worked in the past.

Lastly, there are often many logistical stressors to finals, and I would encourage you to be proactive in addressing these logistics. Take a little bit of time and make sure you know when your finals take place and where they are located. Gather all your materials (such as pencils, scantrons, lab equipment) ahead of time and put them all together in one place. Make a list of all the allowable materials for each exam (such as cheat sheets or open notes). As much as possible do this ahead of time so you don’t have to worry about it the day of the exam.

I hope this helps everyone get through the next couple of weeks.

Good luck on those finals!