10 Ways to Calm Your Mind

The worst part of a new quarter is approaching quickly: EXAMS. To students, “finals” and "midterms" mean late nights, cramming what you haven’t actually learned yet, frustrating group projects and the feeling of losing your mental stability. It’s a lot of suffering.



Needless to say, there is a lot of anxiety and stress involved. Overstressing doesn’t do any good. If anything, the more you stress, the more your productivity goes down. Following these 10 tips on calming your mind will likely help you maintain a healthy mental state during finals week, and subsequently help you do better on your tests.

Manage your time


If the quarter system has taught us anything, it’s that time management is a vital skill. Writing down your tasks is helpful in keeping track of what you have to do and managing your time. In turn, this increases productivity and helps keep your mind a little clearer. So write in your planner, make to-do lists, create a schedule and stay on top of it.

Get enough sleep


Introductory Psych taught me all about sleep debt–ever since I learned that it’s impossible to “make up” for a lost night’s sleep, I’ve made it a priority to get at least 7 hours of sleep a night. Even so, it can be difficult to achieve. During finals week, it’s likely that you’ll be staying up late to study. If it’s the night before a final, it’s better to prioritize your sleep over studying all night. Getting enough sleep ties in with management; the better you manage your work in the day, the more sleep you’ll get. Maybe you can use sleep as an incentive to follow your schedule.


Don’t forget about food and water


Speaking of taking breaks, it’s really, really, really, really important that you take food breaks and drink plenty of water. We know you get hangry when you don’t eat. If you don’t have time to cook a super healthy meal for yourself (let’s be honest, who does?) look for anything semi-nutritious. Keep your body hydrated and give it nutrients! Lack of food and/or an unhealthy diet can bog your mind and decrease your study ethic. Seriously, don’t forget to eat!


Work out


Staying active is a HUGE stress relief. We know that finals week sounds like the worst effing time to go to the gym, but really, it’s the best time to go. Exercise is a natural feel-good drug.



In the words of Elle Woods, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.” Similarly, happy students just don’t fail their finals! (We hope.)


Take breaks


When you’re spending hours studying at the library, don’t forget to take breaks! Taking a short walk outside, or even just a few laps inside the library will help you de-stress. When you get back into study mode, you’ll feel refreshed and be able to tackle your studies with a clearer mind. A good rule for breaks is the 50-10 rule: 50 minutes of focused studying followed by a 10-minute break.


Listen to music


Music has wonderful stress relief benefits, and the best part is that you can use it in different ways. For example, you can work on schoolwork with music as long as it isn’t too distracting. You can meditate with music by lying down, letting go of everything around you, and just listening to music. You can sing and/or dance to music. You can play around with making music. Really, you can have fun with music or you can.


Talk to friends

Of course, you’ll need more quiet time than usual while studying for finals. BUT we recommend you don’t completely isolate yourself! You might just start feeling crazier. Just like you are there to listen to your friends and significant other in their times of stress, they are there to listen to you. Plus, hanging out with people whose company you enjoy is total stress relief. Finals week is busy, but try and make a little “chill” time. Even if it’s just going out for pizza and beer with your roommate.


Look for the stress relief animals on campus


There is a reason animals are used in therapy! Many colleges have “therapy dog” (and sometimes goat) days on campus. Take advantage of it. Cuddle your stress away.

The next Stressbusters event at Cal Poly is Watercolor Wednesday on February 3, 2016.


Stay positive


Maintaining a positive mindset is arguably one of the most important things you can do for yourself, during finals week and in life. Some of the best people we know have the most positive attitudes. It may come naturally for some people, but not for everybody. The good thing is that you can train yourself to be positive by becoming conscious of your thought processes, recognizing negative thoughts, realizing they are useless, and flipping them around. So, when you start thinking, “I’m going to fail this final,” tell yourself: “I’m going to study as hard as I can and do my best on this final. And if I don’t do as great as I wanted to, I won’t dwell on it.”




Okay, meditation is not easy, but it is worth it. It’s a spiritual practice that can help overcome posture, find inner peace, develop a mind-body connection, cultivate mindfulness, and introduce a positive mindset. If you are genuinely interested in starting the meditation practice, there is a lot of detailed and easily accessible information online (e.g. www.how-to-meditate.org).


Choose your own!


We all have weird things that work for us. It could be dancing, writing, watching sunsets, chasing lizards, or staring at a lava lamp. If you know what yours is, utilize that knowledge and add it to this list. If you don’t, just keep experimenting–you’ll find it eventually.


We hope you find these tips helpful for staying calm during finals week. Good luck!