Arguably the most stressful week for every college student is finals week. It isn’t just one big test to prepare for in one class but, typically, several massive ones to prepare for all at once. Finals in some classes represent the most significant single portion of the grade for the entire semester. Bombing a final could literally mean failing a class.
The stress of finals week can be hard on students, and many pick up habits during dead week — the week of no classes prior to finals week — that can be pretty detrimental to their health overall. Finding good strategies to cope with the stress of finals week and make studying genuinely productive is the ultimate key to success.
Why Manage Stress
There is no shortage of documented ways that stress can negatively impact your health, especially if felt over a prolonged period. Stress releases chemicals in the brain that can promote the fight-or-flight response and cause changes in the body, such as:
- Negative mood swings;
- Higher blood pressure;
- Increased heart rate;
- Weakened immune system;
- Anxiety and panic attacks;
- Headaches or migraines;
- Changes in bowel movements;
- Difficulty focusing and remembering things.
None of these symptoms are great for studying or doing well on final exams. Over time, this can create numerous more severe impacts, such as stomach ulcers, stroke, heart disease, depression, or suicidal thoughts.
Fortunately, there are many ways to help manage stress and make studying more productive in shorter intervals. Organization tactics, such as creating a study schedule and a positive attitude, can go a long way toward improving stress management. Likewise, creating time for breaks and working together in study groups can make the time you are studying for finals more productive. Some schools offer several resources, too, such as tutors and study halls.
The Power of Sleep and Exercise
For many students, finals week can mean significant changes in their daily routine. Often exercise will be foregone in the name of studying, or sleep gets pushed off to the wee hours of the morning to sneak in more studying. Although this can feel more productive, it actually might not be helping at all. In fact, making time for both sleep and exercise can make studying more productive.
Sleep, for instance, is imperative for the body to rest and recharge. It’s also profoundly valuable for the brain to convert new information into long-term memories. Ultimately, this means that pulling an all-nighter to study for finals will cause you to retain less information than if you’d just called it a night at your regular bedtime and got a full eight hours. Sticking to a regular sleep routine can help combat stress by helping your body develop and recognize cues for bed. A normal routine may even improve sleep quality if you are stressed.
Eating right and exercising are easy to disregard during final studying, but they are also crucial for stress management and, ultimately, retaining information. Giving your brain a break from studying can help you remember more on test day. Exercise can release stress and give you an extra boost of focus. Eating healthy primes you for efficacy, so fuel up on certain stress-reducing study foods.
Finals week is stressful, but finding strategies to manage that stress is ultimately the best method for a productive study week. Making a study schedule, taking regular breaks, taking advantage of study resources, exercising, maintaining a healthy diet, and getting the proper sleep are all great strides toward doing your best during finals.
Author: Sam Bowman