By: Taylor Martz
As I embark on my 11th finals week (for the fifth year in a row), I can confidently say I know what I need to do to make sure my mind, body, and sanity make it through this week without a hitch. You don’t have to take my word for it, but as a seasoned collegiate veteran, I’ve determined the most effective self-care practices to carry a student through a week of complete stress.
1. Naps on Naps
Contrary to popular belief, pulling an all-nighter does not equate to effective studying. I know, some of you are rolling your eyes or making the argument it’s easy to get wrapped up studying and not notice the time until 3 a.m., but 6-8 hours of shut-eye will help you more than any last-minute cramming efforts.
If you absolutely cannot get those precious 6-8 hours, or know you’ll be up late, consider taking a preparatory nap. Taking a nap is as much an art as it is a science. Experts have repeatedly exclaimed how naps can improve our cognitive memory processing, creativity, and emotional or procedural memory. Studies show a 10- to 20-minute nap is ideal for most situations, and especially when it comes to boosting your mood, increasing alertness, and enhancing performance.
Oh, and here’s a grad student secret— drink a cup of coffee right before lying down for 20 minutes. Caffeine takes approximately 20 minutes to kick in, so by the time you wake up, not only will you feel revived from your nap, but you’ll have a nice caffeine boost!
2. Take Advantage of Finals Week Perks
My guess is your school already has some awesome incentives in place for finals week, but in case you weren’t aware this was a ‘thing,’ I highly recommend checking to see what is offered (for free!) to help students de-stress. I’ve seen anything from therapy puppies to pizza to free chair massages, so don’t miss out!
3. Stick to the Basics
Did you know that you’re still a functioning human during finals week? It’s shocking, but your body still requires the bare necessities. Don’t underestimate the power of a good meal, clean clothing, rest, and a hot shower.
4. Make Headspace
a. Stick to a Routine: It’s very possible your head is spinning from so many formulas, definitions, and mental to-do lists, which makes it all the more necessary for you to stick to your normal self-care routine. Do you take a bubble bath once a week? Zen out at yoga on Tuesdays and Thursdays? Read a chapter of a book before bed? Don’t cast these to the wayside in order to cram. The time you spend rejuvenating away from your books is almost as important as the time you spend with your nose in one.
b. Meditate on it: Finals week is practically synonymous with sleeping with your eyes open. You’ve been there: Your head is bobbing and you stagger to your bed for a power nap, but, all of a sudden, your mind won’t shut off and your to-do list seems like the most important thing in the world. A great way to calm these racing thoughts is by meditating. New to meditation? Try the app Headspace or search Pinterest for breathing techniques. Whatever soothes your soul.
5. Eat Brain Food
Nourishing your body is just as important as nourishing your mind. While the temptation to reach for anything with caffeine, sugar, grease, and fat is extremely present, do your best to keep these items to a minimum. Your body will feel better, you’ll be more alert, less likely to overeat, and your sleep will improve. Try whole grains, fish or chicken, eggs, nuts, leafy greens, veggies, and berries.
… Did you skim past that list? Probably. Hey, comfort food is allowed during finals week—it’s good to indulge in what makes you happy! Just try to keep your sugary rewards to a minimum. Or snack on dark chocolate— get the best of both worlds!
6. Be Social
While it’s easy to lock yourself in your room in a groutfit to avoid distractions, it’s also easy to become a walking zombie thanks to the absence of genuine human interaction. Watch funny cat videos with your roommates for a laugh, practice your speech for your Spanish project out loud in front of friends, or go grab a late-night milkshake and vent. Whatever it is, just get out and be social.
7. Move It or Lose It
Don’t stay too cooped up in the stuffy library or face-first in your piles of books, you’re bound to go insane. Sometimes we need to move our seat… literally. Exercise or light movement boosts our endorphins. If the laundry list of dates in your history textbook makes you want to cry, consider taking a quick 30- to 45-minute break to take a walk around the quad or shoot some hoops with friends. Movement will keep you alert, help you de-stress, and give you the chance to get some fresh air. Did you know fresh outdoor oxygen increases energy in 90 percent of people? Instead of reaching for your 4th cup of coffee, try fueling yourself by connecting with nature.
Finally, know that self-care isn’t selfish. While these are all tried and proven self-care techniques, no one knows you better than yourself. Tailor your rejuvenation. It’s easy to push making ourselves a priority to the wayside when final grades are on the line, but don’t forget the impact taking care of yourself can have on your body, mind, and soul. Good luck on your exams!