Written By: Annilee Hampton
Finals are always stressful, and in 2020, with our fraught political situation, global pandemic, and the numerous changes that people have had to make to everyday lives, the pressure only seems worse. Here are five tips and tricks that will help to ease stress in the coming weeks.
Make a plan. Making a study schedule will make your workload seem much more manageable, as well as helping you to manage your time effectively and prevent procrastination. Break things down into smaller, easier to manage tasks, and make a checklist of what you need to do each day. Crossing items off of your list will not only remind you what still needs to be done, but will also give you a sense of satisfaction as you make your way down the list.
Try to avoid pulling an all-nighter cram session. You might think that information might stick better in your brain if it is fresher, but studies have proven that this strategy may actually worsen your performance on tests. Paula Alhola and Päivi Polo-Kantola’s 2007 study “Sleep deprivation: Impact on cognitive performance” explains that the brain codes information while you sleep and stores it for future reference. If you do not sleep, the brain finds it much more difficult to find stored information in your memories. By ditching the all-nighter, you are not only more likely to do better on exams, but you will be much more well-rested and happier on exam day.
Don’t forget to eat. Sometimes it is easy to get so caught up in studying that something as simple as food can slip your mind. However, food is extremely beneficial when studying, not just in that it gives you energy and keeps you moving, but in that certain foods can have certain specific benefits. Kelly Urban, a dietitian working at the University of North Carolina, has stated that berries and other food high in Vitamin C can help “enhance brain performance [and] improve memory”. Nuts can help with enhancing memory, and avocados can lower blood pressure and stress levels. Even treats like dark chocolate have important properties for studying, containing caffeine and antioxidant boosts that keep you alert and concentrated.
Give yourself a break. Studying and studying without breaks could very easily lead to burnout. According to productivity app DeskTime, it is most effective to work in shifts of about an hour — 52 minutes of studying, followed by a 17 minute break. It is just enough time to leave you feeling refreshed upon returning to work, but not long enough to become too distracted and lose focus. Taking breaks prevents you from making careless mistakes or becoming disengaged from your work. There are important psychological benefits to giving yourself a break to go for a walk or quickly scroll through TikTok. “The more relaxed and disengaged from work people feel during a break, the more likely they will be to benefit from taking time off,” said Wharton School doctoral student Hengchen Dai.Reward yourself for accomplishments. Make sure that you have something you are working towards – whether it is after finals are completely over, or just during a study break, you deserve a reward for working so hard. Not only that, but it gives you something to work towards, a light at the end of the tunnel. Watch a few episodes of your favorite show during a break, or buy yourself something to reward yourself for all the hard work you have done. With all the chaos in the world this year, it has been a very stressful semester and you deserve to treat yourself.