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How to Stay Sane During Finals Week

The days are getting warmer, the sun is staying out longer, AnTostal events are happening everywhere we look, and we have a little over two weeks in the semester left. You know what that means? That’s right! FINALS WEEK!

Unfortunately, we have to get through some of the most stressful days of the year before we can enjoy our long-awaited summer vacation. But you don’t have to be big balls of stress just because you face a hectic schedule. By tweaking a few of your daily habits, you can have a less stressful and more successful week.

1. Make a list!

This may seem like a no-brainer, but I would bet a lot of people overlook this step of the studying process. Tasks seem so much more daunting when you think about them all at once. When you do this, it can feel impossible to finish everything. However, if you break your tasks into small groups, it’s easier to tackle things one at a time. My go-to process? List everything you have to do, and then number them 1-3 according to priority or due date. Start with the assignments labeled 1, and then work your way through to the 3’s.

No matter how you organize things, the most important part is to just write it down. That way, you won’t miss anything, and you’ll feel better able to get everything done! Plus, physically crossing things off a list is a very satisfying feeling and you’ll be able to see the progress you’re making.

2. Limit distractions

Yes, I know you think you can study, text your best friend, and skim Facebook at the same time. I hate to say it, but you really can’t. If you find yourself reaching for your phone every five minutes, it’s time to turn it off and put it away. If you’re constantly tempted to go on Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter during online study sessions, try an app that blocks certain websites so you can increase your productivity. I use one that’s called SelfControl – it lets you customize which websites to block for a certain period of time, so you won’t be tempted to check your Newsfeed every two minutes. Learn more here.

Going beyond technology, find a place to study where you can really focus. Whether you’re the kind of gal who needs complete silence to study or you like a healthy dose of background noise, find a spot on campus where you know you’ll be happiest. Don’t feel bad going somewhere by yourself if you know you can get more done without your pals around. There’s a time to socialize, but there’s also a time to get your schoolwork done.

3. Take breaks!

Did you know that it’s better to study in small increments of time rather than in one big cramming session? It’s harder to retain information if you’re sitting at the same cubicle for multiple hours on end, plus you’ll eventually be distracted by anything and everything if your eyes are constantly glued on your notes.

A study conducted at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign showed that taking breaks while studying can boost productivity and improve our ability to focus. So don’t feel bad stepping away from the books every once in a while. Go on a walk around the lakes, call your mom and say hello, or take a quick trip to the gym with a friend. (Not to mention increasing evidence shows that exercise has some amazing benefits for improving learning and memory – even more incentive to get our daily dose of exercise!)

4. Make smart snacking decisions

Everyone loves snacking, and during long hours in the library it can be especially hard to say no to that delicious ABP pastry or cookie. But you’ll feel so much better if you choose healthier snacks during final exam prep. Try reaching for a handful of nuts, an apple and peanut butter, or carrots and guacamole/hummus instead of a bag of Doritos when hunger strikes. (Plus, you’ll avoid the dreaded cheesy-powder covered fingers.)

And how could I forget coffee? It’s basically a staple in many college students’ diets, and can be our saving grace during finals week. Try to avoid sugary coffee drinks during your next trip to ABP, Starbucks, or any coffee vendor on campus. Need some inspiration? Check out my article on how to be smart while getting your caffeine fix – you can find it here


Did you know today’s college students sleep an average of two hours less per night than college students did in the 1980’s? If you think it’s best to study late into the night before exams, think again!

Sleep plays a critical role in learning. Sleep deprivation is linked with impaired concentration, alertness, and problem solving. Catching some z’s also helps you process things that you’ve learned and many studies show a quick nap (or a good night’s sleep) can help you remember things more efficiently. So instead of reviewing your notes one more time at 2 a.m., slip into some comfy pajamas and climb into bed – it’ll help your performance the next day. 

Good luck on your exams, collegiettes! You can do it!


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Images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4

Hey, I'm Claire! I'm a sophomore at Notre Dame majoring in psychology with minors in journalism and business economics. I'm from Peoria, Illinois (no, it's actually not a suburb of Chicago!) and if you know where that is, we're probably going to become best friends. I'm a self-proclaimed Starbucks addict, social media connoisseur, and a proud advocate of the (not so) occasional Netflix binge. I'm a proud Breen-Phillips Babe and so #blessed to be a part of the Notre Dame community. Go Irish!
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