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It’s that time of year again — the dreaded finals season. Before we can enjoy a relaxing winter break and bask in the holiday season, we have to take exams, write papers and meet deadlines. For most college students, the end of the fall semester is an incredibly stressful time. 

This year, because of the COVID-19 pandemic and virtual classes, finals season looks a little different. You may not be able to write an essay in your favorite library spot or coffee shop. You can’t get together with a group of friends to study for that economics exam.You might even be away from the lively campus environment that makes finals week almost bearable. 

However, it’s important to make the best out of a less-than-ideal situation. Check out these five tips to ace your finals while also taking care of yourself.

 Smooth out your study routine

To do well on your final exams and projects, maintain good study habits. In a virtual environment, especially when some classes are asynchronous, keeping up with everything on your to-do list is hard. Use a planner or whiteboard to keep track of due dates and to-do lists and ensure you stay on top of your work. Be consistent every day — use the beginning of the week to block out parts of your day for specific tasks and stick to that schedule.
Whether you’re at home or on campus this semester, setting up a comfortable, quiet space dedicated to studying can also help you stay focused and driven. You can even personalize it with a motivational poster or some calming candles. When you’re studying, put your phone away to avoid distractions. If you like listening to music, try some classical — it’s been shown to decrease stress levels and increase memory.

Catch some Zs

Your well-being depends largely on sleep. Getting too little sleep leads to declining academic performance, but if you’re well-rested, you’ll ace those tests and papers. Get at least eight hours of sleep per night and maintain a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. 
If you have trouble falling or staying asleep, listen to some calming music or white noise as you’re drifting off. You can also invest in a weighted blanket and take advantage of sleep-inducing scents like lavender. Putting away screens and devices about an hour before bed, and choosing a calming activity like reading instead, can also help improve your quality of sleep.

Get on your feet 

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you should exercise for improved concentration, memory and academic performance. You’re more likely to remember all those formulas for your chemistry test if you take some time each day to get moving. Schedule a socially-distanced walk or hike with a friend, follow along with a Youtube workout video or even sneak in a 15-minute yoga flow after you wake up. Even if you’re busy, your body and mind will thank you.

Whip up some yummy, healthy treats

If you have a busy day of studying ahead of you, you can be tempted to skip meals and just grab a granola bar to eat while you hit the books, but you have to fuel your body the right way during finals season. Several studies show that eating a balanced diet and three meals a day leads to better academic performance. Eating protein-rich foods such as nuts, oatmeal and lentils throughout the day can keep you full and focused on your work. You can also try out some quick, healthy recipes that give your body the nutrition it needs without being too time-consuming. Lately, my favorites have been vegan stir fry and tofu scramble.

At the same time, don’t hesitate to treat yourself now and then. If you’re craving a chocolate bar or a couple slices of pizza, listen to your body! Just remember to stay consistent and balanced in what you eat.

Kick back and relax

In the frenzy of studying and deadlines, you may forget to take a breath. But you can’t pour from an empty cup, so you have to make time for self-care if you want to stay motivated all week. Schedule a block of time every day to put down your schoolwork and do something fun or relaxing instead. Watch your favorite movie or TV show, take a bath, play an instrument, read, do some art — the possibilities are endless.

Finals week is daunting, especially this year. But if you follow these tips, take care of yourself and do your best, you are more than capable of making it through!

Shifra Dayak

Maryland '24

Shifra is a sophomore multiplatform journalism major at the University of Maryland. When she's not writing, she loves playing instruments, eating Thai food and rewatching Gilmore Girls.
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