Midterms and finals are hallmarks of a student’s academic career, particularly while attending a university. This period, which often takes up to two weeks during both the middle and end of the semester, is considered one of the most stressful times in a college student’s life. Going to the library for hours on end, pulling all-nighters or skipping meals are all a part of the college culture surrounding final exams. Managing these stressful days, along with operating within a toxic culture of meritocracy, can often lead students down a dark mental spiral. This can especially affect those already afflicted with mental illness(es). Personally, as a sufferer of mental illness, the way I cope with the expectations and stressors of finals weeks may not be the universally perfect avenue a student can take to succeed. But, if these reminders help me manage, I hope they will help someone else as well.
On that note, my first management tip is to remind yourself about community. I think when students are juggling mental health, school, work and just life in general, it’s easy to single themselves out and break themselves down. I often think, “I’m the only one not succeeding, not balancing my life perfectly and not managing this particular thing properly,” which is both harmful and not true. We are conditioned in society to be individual and competitive, but the recognition of community is something much more advantageous. Instead of believing you are behind everyone else’s abilities, or that you are falling below what’s expected, consider that you have an entire community of peers experiencing the same things you are. Ultimately, the mindset that my struggles, thoughts and issues are not necessarily unique to me has drastically helped me overcome debilitating thoughts about my successes and failures.
However, in a less communal vein of thinking, something else that has helped me manage finals weeks without worsening my mental health has been to take positive me-time. This could be by studying and doing work by myself, meditating, journaling or painting my nails. The focus is to find whatever helps to put me in a positive mindset. Constantly placing yourself in environments that distract you from yourself, your work and your overall energy will only deplete your mental and physical resources faster. Now, I’m not recommending that you hole yourself away in your room, even though I am entirely guilty of doing that occasionally. I just highly recommend that whenever you attend a study group or hang out with friends during a stressful period, you equate that time at a positive individual level. I tend to use this time to either focus on what’s stressing me out and try to resolve it mentally or calm myself down in general by centering my energy and thoughts into a journal entry or a mindfulness exercise.
Finally, my biggest recommendation to those who struggle with mental illness, especially during stressful times like finals weeks, is to readjust your perspective. It took me so long to recalibrate my mentality about myself from centering around success and achievements to centering around myself and my health. It is so important to realize that you are beyond your accolades and other peoples’ perceptions. We are meant to do and feel so much more than the academic and emotional rollercoaster of college. Whether you pray, meditate or manifest, something I always tell myself within this realm of thought is that: whatever is meant for me will find me. This encourages me, and I hope it encourages you as a reader to accept the uncontrollable things that come your way, and center yourself during the crazy time that is college finals week.