Arts and crafts is a good way to relieve that pent-up finals stress (Illustration by Yunyi Dai, Rhode Island School of Design)
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Arts and crafts is a good way to relieve that pent-up finals stress (Illustration by Yunyi Dai, Rhode Island School of Design)

The last week of the semester doesn’t have to be the most stressful one.

Finals week is one of the most difficult times of the school year, and the stressful overload of essays, tests and presentations can be impossible to deal with.

So take a deep breath, remember that you’ve almost successfully completed the whole semester, keep plugging away and have a look at these seven ways to combat finals stress.

1. Color or draw

Sooth your nerves by creating a mandala, indulge your creativity by imagining the hues of a scenic view, or take out your anger toward your professors by coloring in some giant curse words in a swear words coloring book. You don’t even have to buy a coloring book to hop on the adult coloring trend — you can download a free app or free printable coloring pages instead.

If coloring isn’t quite your speed, doodling is a great stress reliever as well. For that matter, doing anything for yourself — something that no one else will ever see, judge or grade — is a relief during finals when your entire grade rests on one test or assignment.

If you’re angry that your professors just don’t understand how much work students have to do, you can draw angry faces on post-it notes and stick them on your study guides. Or draw some happy suns to remind yourself that you will soon be able to leave the dark depths of the library and rejoin civilization as a proud survivor of finals.

2. Make comfort food

You’re probably going to want to stress eat your way through finals no matter what, but making your own guilty pleasure food offers a way to take a break and distract yourself from your impending finals.

Whether you feel like crafting a five-course meal, throwing together a bowl of mac and cheese, or baking cookies to share with fellow suffering students, comfort food is always a good answer to a stressful situation.

3. Watch a movie

A safer option than watching a show: there is less potential for getting sucked into a binge-watching spiral, and having a movie night is one way to take your mind off studying. Planning to watch a movie at a certain time also gives you something to work for, a tangible goal to keep in mind and make studying more bearable.

You can invite a friend over to watch with you and help you eat the comfort food you made, or you can hole up alone under a pile of blankets and munch away at some popcorn while watching your favorite movie and choosing to forget how much work you have to do.

4. Have a dance party

Chances are you’ve been sitting in one place for several hours now, frying your brain over a flaming hot mess of an essay or study prep, and dancing is a fun way to release your pent-up frustration and shake some life back into your limbs.

Alternately, if you are entirely drained and need to relax, lying inert on your bed and listening to your favorite music or podcast is a more peaceful, less energy-consuming alternative to dancing wildly around your room.

5. Maintain a regular sleep schedule

On a more serious note, sleeping is crucial during finals. All-nighters are rarely the answer to an overload of work; even getting up late the day after a long night of studying isn’t a good way to combat the sleep deprivation that often goes hand in hand with finals.

Since your normal schedule will be turned on its head during finals, staying on a regular sleep schedule can help you maintain a routine, feel more organized and well-rested during an otherwise chaotic time. You don’t have to go to bed sooner or get up earlier, but if you sleep at a normal, healthy hour, you can make sure you optimize your time and stay sane in a difficult period of college.

6. Study for a set amount of time and then take a break

Give yourself an hour, a half hour, even fifteen minutes to throw yourself into your studies, and then do something fun for an equal amount of time. Think of it as breaking up your day into smaller chunks of time and only spending every other chunk studying—you will feel less stressed, and having a self-promised break in the foreseeable future gives you something to look forward to.

An alternative is to set a goal, whether you promise yourself that you will finish writing a paragraph of your essay or master a section of your study guide, and only take a break once you’ve accomplished what you want. It also helps to alternate which class you study for; doing all the work for one class in one block of time is exhausting and burns you out faster than doing a bit for one class, then a bit for another, then taking a break, and repeating.

7. Start early

Don’t wait until the last minute to start studying. Instead, strategically space out your procrastination so that it does you some good, rather than procrastinating at the beginning of finals week and cramming at the end. Convince yourself that you will give yourself all the irresistible fun of procrastination in the breaks between your designated chunks of study time.

Going to the library or another study-designated space to work is also helpful, since surrounding yourself with other people hard at work on their own finals preparation can guilt you into doing what you’re supposed to. Similarly, forming a study group with people in your class is helpful if you find you need some more motivation to force you to study.

Finals are perhaps objectively the worst part of each semester, and getting through them with your sanity intact can be difficult. The best thing you can do is know yourself—know where you can concentrate best, who you work well with, what study techniques are the most useful for you and what time of day you are most productive. Self-discipline during finals is easier said than done, but with a surefire plan for how to cope with the stress, you can turn finals week into something you can dominate rather than barely survive.

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Kathleen Danielson

Carleton College

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