Ah yes, finals season. One of the few times during the year when anxiety levels are at their highest. With the students hustling and bustling around trying to re-organize their lecture notes and stabilize their thoughts, finals season definitely does not give the same vibe as Christmas season—if only!
With that said, I have accumulated some of the best skills to cope with that anxiety and stress. This past year, I have been diagnosed with a few mental illnesses, but the one I feel that best relates to this topic is Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Therefore, I have been researching and learning more about how to cope with distress. An important lesson that I have learned is that when your emotions are at a high, your ability to process information is at a low. So, with these tips, I hope that you can apply it to your study schedule and feel better about your exams.
Let's get started!
1. Unplug from Social Media
I know this is easier said than done, but unplugging from social media will be one of the most beneficial things you can do for your mental wellbeing. The time spent scrolling through Instagram or Twitter could be used to prepare your notes and Quizlets. I will admit, one of my common routines is waking up and rolling over to scroll through my social media, and that increases anxiety and stress levels.
A study that I read from HelpGuide.org states that the light from phones and devices disrupts your sleep and increases anxiety. Let's try to avoid that by putting it on "Do Not Disturb" for that week and focus on our studies. We can do it together!
2. Sleep. Sleep. Sleep
I am fully aware of the limited amount of hours that college students sleep during finals week; trust me. However, by taking little power naps in between study sessions and setting alarms for when to take a rest break will be incredibly beneficial for your overall mental health.
One of the things that I have learned is that when I am well rested, my anxiety and stress goes way down. Be sure to rest your eyes and head—it's good for the soul. Happier soul means productivity, so this moment to breathe gives a good return on investment for your grades, too.
According to VitalRecord.edu, it is wise to get seven to eight hours of sleep before studying or taking a test. It may feel like that is an incredibly long time with deadlines and assignments picking up, so being mindful and striving to get at least four hours is better than one!
3. Make Time for Exercise
Exercise is one of the best things to do to decrease anxiety levels. This can range. You don't have to go spend 45 minutes weight lifting something that is four times your size, but a simple 30 minute walk outside helps. It helps to clear your mind and give you a breath of fresh air. We spend so much time on our computers and screens that taking a few minutes of time to get your blood flowing and away from your screen will help you feel balanced.
Some of the simplest exercises that just get my blood flowing and help decrease my stress include:
45-second wall sit
You can mix and match any workout, but the main goal is to bring your mind back to center by focusing on your physical health while maintaining your mental health.
4. A Simple Rule: 5-4-3-2-1
So, what happens if I have a breakdown or panic attack during my studying? Well, one of the things that I do is the 5-4-3-2-1 Technique.
5: Acknowledge five things you see around you.
4: Acknowledge four things you can touch.
3: Acknowledge three things you can hear.
2: Acknowledge two things you can smell.
1: Acknowledge one thing you can taste.
The purpose of this technique is to help you if you are feeling anxious about anything. It is a great grounding exercise; I know that when we are studying and grinding away with our exams, it’s hard to get back into the moment. This exercise just takes a few seconds and helps to bring yourself back down from heightened stress.
This is my final tip, and I feel it is one of the most important. One of the automatic reactions to stress in our bodies is rapid breath. In order to reverse it, practice some deep belly breathing. Sit upright, put your hands on your stomach and breathe. Breathe in for 3 seconds and out for 5. Continue on with that pattern until you feel your heartbeat go back down to a normal pace.
This is an easy technique that shouldn’t take too much time away from your studying, so please be sure to remember your breathing—it's what keeps us alive.
Best of luck on finals, and I know that each and every one of you guys will do so well! Happy studying!