How to get through finals without totally losing your mind

As I write this I’m sitting in a Starbucks staring at my calendar and having what can only be described as the meltdown of the century. I have papers to write, exams to take, and (god help me) group projects to struggle through. I’m catching a stress sickness, and I haven’t slept in weeks, and to be honest I am seriously considering saying, “screw it” and running away to join the circus if they’ll have me (which is unlikely because no one is willing to pay to see a girl whose main talents include untamed sass and intricate cross stitching). It’s unfortunate that the most wonderful time of the year coincides with the least wonderful time of the year: finals. If you’re anything like me and don’t handle stress particularly gracefully, here are some tips to get you through finals in one piece, if not a bit bruised. Winter break is coming, just hold on, you’re going home.

Take a dance break.

When I study, or write, or do anything remotely academic, I tend to get really stiff and really crotchety. I’ve found that taking periodic dance breaks helps me keep my head in the game. There’s something about shaking my booty and doing that Beyoncé boob shake that really gets the creative juices pumping.

Get a friend to bribe you.

I’ve been blessed with friends who understand exactly how my brain works, and know that the best way to keep me motivated is to dangle a burrito in front of my nose as a reward for finishing the research paper that I’d rather burn than annotate. If burritos aren’t your thing, that’s cool, find something that you really, really want and get a friend to hold onto it until you’ve completed x number of tasks. If you have something tied to your productivity, you’re more likely to get it done, and the faster the better because dang that burrito looks good.

Have snacks on hand.

Speaking of burritos, let’s talk about food. Studying on an empty stomach is just silly, especially because food is literally energy. I always stock my fridge with study-ready snacks and make sure to pack some when I have a long lecture or a study group where food isn’t readily available. Maybe it’s just me, but I get really pissy if I get hungry, like a toddler, and if I don’t have food I’m not going to do anything other than whine about my rumbly tumbly. My personal favorite final snacks are baby carrots, cauliflower, and popcorn, because they all take a long time to chew and have lots of fiber so they last longer and fill me up. But you do you, man.

Be kind.

Stress tends to make me snippy, and I also become hyper aware of all the annoying little things people do. That kid in the corner banging his pen on the table? I hate him. I want to walk over, rip the pen from his hand, and eat it in front of him so he’ll see the ink dripping from my lips and be so traumatized by weird-pen-eating girl that he’ll develop a lifetime phobia and never pen drum again. This may seem a bit extreme, but everything becomes deathly serious during finals and it’s easy to take it out on innocent bystanders. Just remember that no one is deliberately trying to piss you off, and if someone is indeed pissing you off, it’s probably not worth the stomachache you’ll get from eating that pen. Take a deep breath, and let it go, because everyone is stressed and you’re probably just as annoying as penboy.

It’s OK to nap.

I know it seems like you have to be constantly on the study grind, but taking a little nap can restart your body and your brain and help you come up with the drive you need to read that last chapter or write that last paragraph. I’m not the best judge of nap times, because I like em’ long and toasty. If I didn’t wake up in a puddle of drool, it wasn’t really a nap. However, I think the recommended nap time is around 20 to 30 minutes, but again, you do you, man.

Pick the right music.

Everyone is different. Maybe you really like studying to EDM, or maybe country makes you your most productive self. I like to make inspirational playlists to get me through the dark times. I swear I listened to “I’ll Make a Man Out of You” 96 times last quarter and I’m not even a little embarrassed. If Mulan can save China, I can pass my Poli Sci class.

Find a creative outlet.

When you’re devoting so much time to real life tasks, it’s important to have something fluffy and fun that doesn’t have such high stakes. I’m a fan of crafting because no matter how much I mess up my Papier-mâché Ryan Gosling head, it isn’t going to derail my future and I can always throw it away and start over. Plus, doing things with my hands calms my brain, and limits crying times by roughly 50%. I still cry, but now I have a Gosling head to cuddle.

Keep an anger journal.

This is along the same line as the kindness tip, but I’m including it anyway because it really helps with the finals feelings. Whenever something makes me Hulk-level angry, I open my anger journal, write it down, and then put it out of my mind so I can focus on the task at hand. Keeping my frustrations contained, helps me remain level headed so I’m not constantly snapping at people or crying because someone said something that mildly hurt my feelings. At the end of the quarter, I throw away the journal and start fresh. Warning: do not invest significant amounts of money in anger journal. Go to the dollar store and stock up so you can save money for burritos.

Move your body.

Exercise is another really important stress buster. Running has always been my go-to because I can be alone with my inspirational playlists and move my feet until I’m far, far away from the pressure of finals and the impending doom that is the future. Other people like yoga because it helps you calm down or whatever. Kick boxing is fun too. I don’t know I like aggressive sports, but if you want to stretch your problems away or throw a ball around that’ll work too.

Don’t be afraid to cry.

Yay crying! Crying is honestly one of my favorite things to do because it helps me just flush out all the anxiety that is making my eye twitch and my pits sweat. I usually call my mom and make her listen to my incoherent blubbering until I can regain control and get back to killing my finals and finalizing my place as queen of the feelings. Thanks, mom. If your mom is busy, the shower is a great crying location because the warm water mixes well with tears and when you’re done you can belt out a power ballad.

Don’t give into peer pressure.

If you need to study, then study. Don’t let that cutie talk you into hitting that party and wasting all night fist bumping and drinking questionable things. Study breaks are good, but you need to be the one who sets them. If you’re constantly dropping everything to hang out with your friends, you’re going to end up trying to fit weeks of studying into a single night and that just never ends well. Unless you like crying even more than I do.

Remember that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

I know it might not feel like it right now, but finals will end. You will get to burn your notes and dance on their ashes, and you will get to take a well-deserved break and catch up on all that sleep you’ve been putting off for the past 10 weeks. Soon you’ll be snuggled up in front of the TV with your family watching corny movies and chugging hot coco like there’s no tomorrow. So struggle on, brave students, I believe in you, and so does Ryan Gosling. At least that’s what Ryan’s head told me.

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