You haven’t slept more than a measly 2 hours a night for the last 3 days. The last shower you had escapes your memory. Your choices for food are divided between a granola bar you found at the bottom of your backpack and a pasta bake you made last week. And you’ve likely been wearing the outfit you’re currently wearing for the last 72 hours.
It’s finals. And we’ve all grown to hate it.
While you could use this as a period to stress-cry and attempt to cram your brain with the most mindless and monotonous information possible, I’d highly recommend you do the exact opposite.
Yes, finals are hard. Yes, grades are important. But guess what? You’re more important than both of those things. That’s why I like to treat finals period as an opportunity to do things that really make me feel happy, alive, and inspired. Here’s a list so that maybe you can do the same this year.
1) Do not study for more than 30-45 minutes at a time.
I know sometimes you find yourself trying to cram for 8 hours straight, but that’s really not to your advantage. Set a timer and work for an uninterrupted interval of time you’re comfortable with, and then take a 10-15 minute break doing something you really like. This way you don’t burn out and you can actually memorize things more effectively.
2) Resist the urge to gorge yourself on junk food whilst studying.
I’m sorry to be the one to break the news, but while chowing down on an extra large extra cheesy extra beautiful pizza may be appealing, it actually doesn’t really make for a good study snack. When doing work, try to load up on brain food (aka: nuts, fruits, veggies, etc.) so that you can stay focused and motivated. And then reward yourself with pizza after. Or take advantage of the midnight buffet breakfast in UCC.
3) Enjoy some nature.
Get outside! If you’re feeling stressed or bogged down by your work, take a break. Stroll through the lovely Victoria Park and marvel at the Christmas lights. Or walk through the path formally known as Banana Kingdom behind Med-Syd. This is the forest city after all. Breathe in some nice 02 and let yourself relax.
4) Do something active.
This does not mean you have to mosey on over to the Rec Centre and pump some iron. Go for a walk downtown and window shop. Try a yoga class (Yoga Shack on Ann Street offers FREE and 5$ classes). On a lighter study day, go play some lazertag with your friends or make a fool of yourself trying to bowl. Have a 10-minute dance party with your roommates to old top 40 hits circa 2001. Just get out there and get moving and I promise your brain will thank you.
5) Send a letter to someone you care about.
This one’s my personal favourite when you’re feeling especially stressed and overwhelmed. Visit your local convenience or dollar store and pick out a greeting card that’s trying way too hard to be funny (or one with google-y eyed animals on it) and write a letter to someone great in your life. Just tell them about your day or how great you think they are or something you guys should do together once the horrid finals are done. It’s a great way to stay positive under stress and appreciate all the amazing people in your life. Plus, snail mail is totally cool.
6) Take 5 seconds and check in with your roommates.
It’s easy to get buried under textbooks and haphazardly written notes (both literally and figuratively) and forget that everyone else is going through it to. Take the time to ask them how they’re doing. After a good session of studying, award yourself with a 22 minute ‘Friends’ break and enjoy each other’s company. Your roommates are basically your support system at university, so why not try to be theirs too?
7) For the love of all that is holy, please turn off your phone.
I made the mistake of downloading Yik-Yak during the period in which all my final papers were due. Needless to say, one night I lost 4 hours of my life and didn’t start my paper until 2am (10/10 would not recommend). Give your phone to your roommate and only tell them to give it back on breaks. Tell them to hide it somewhere. Or, download apps on your computer (like Facebook Nanny) that restrict you from using sites that are ultimately going to drain all your precious time.
8) Take naps.
I know, right. This is probably the best piece of advice on this whole list. In the same way that your brain learns information best in small increments, it is able to hold on to that information more efficiently if you’ve had the proper R&R. During finals, it’s not always feasible to get that 8 hours, so when you feel yourself starting to drift off into that hazy state, set a timer for 20 minute (the optimum nap period) and let yourself catch some Z’s. It doesn’t matter if it’s 1pm or 1am – if you’re determined to stay awake as long as possible, you need to let your mind chill out for a little while. That way, your brain gets a nice little recharge without falling into a deep sleep that you don’t want to get up from.
9) If possible, do not study right up until the moment of the exam.
There’s always that kid that strolls up to the exam 1 hour early, notes in hand, frantically flipping through them until the proctor announces it’s TIME TO BEGIN. While you may find this reassuring because you physically have all the info in your hands, it’ll probably do you more harm than help (ex: that horrible moment when you’re anxiously studying outside the exam and you overhear someone mention a thing you’ve never even heard of). Instead, try to get a good night’s sleep and, if possible, don’t study the day of the exam at all. Ensure you get some good sustenance in your system before you head to campus and listen to that pump-up anthem on your iPod so you feel extra triumphant.
10) Study off campus.
Honestly, Weldon is the most annoying thing about finals. Or study space on campus in general. Plus, when you’re there all day, you’re usually forced to buy food at some point and there’s only so many times you can eat Subway and Tim’s before it starts to get boring. Branch out and use this as an opportunity to get to know the city. The public library on Dundas Street is phenomenal (lots of windows and natural light so you don’t feel like you’re withering a way in a concrete cell). There’s also a ton of coffee shops downtown (Black Walnut, Coffee Culture, Fire Roasted) where you can get your study on. The change of scenery (and the trip outdoors) may be just what you need to keep going.
Good luck, take breaks, take care of yourself, and may the force be with you as you go into these final exams.