Staying Sane During Finals Week

For those of you lucky enough to be done with the school year already, take this article as a cautionary tale for next semester. But if like me you find yourself in the sea of papers, last-minute cram sessions and Red Bull also known as “Hell Week”, you’ll certainly be able to relate to this. I currently have a ten-page paper on every aspect of the US presidency since the early 20th century due Thursday, three enormous finals within a span of two days, and let’s not talk about the horrifying test I had last Thursday that I found out about on Wednesday night. If you’re anything like me, though, academics are just the tip of the iceberg that is Finals Week. I have sorority functions and responsibilities, and huge final projects for speech & debate team. And I’d like to accomplish all that while looking as un-zombie-like as possible so I try to go for a quick run and get some sun every day too. So how on earth are we supposed to have time for all this, AND manage to get a little sleep in the meantime? It’s madness. And the pop culture world agrees with me. Listen to this song by Sleigh Bells (look up more of their music, you’ll be glad you did)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2Gr5pRCQoA: Straight As by Sleigh Bells

This song has only one line in it, but that line says it all: “Ain’t no sleep I want straight As.” This is the attitude of many students on my campus, and surely at other schools. Our campus library has been open 24/7 since last Monday to accommodate our all-night study sessions, and trust me, the library is PACKED even at 4 in the morning. How do I know this? By experience, sadly.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=11OguJCoXqQ: Adderall and Red Bull by Timeflies

Timeflies is a Youtube rapper who has become well-known for his “Timeflies Tuesday” videos where he often covers popular songs. This one is a parody of the song “Marvin’s Room” by Drake, with the lyrics slightly modified to fit the finals week mood. The popularity of this video reflects something that’s extremely obvious on my campus. Most students try to enhance their performance in as many ways as possible: using caffeine, energy drinks, and prescription medications as study drugs to get the grade.

Besides the potential risks of these methods, sometimes I wonder is it all worth it? Is a perfect grade or a 4.0 GPA really worth slaving away, spending three nights straight locked in a library study room memorizing the executive branch offices that came about as a result of the 1937 Brownlow Report? At my school, students typically spend their free time lounging at the pool, playing beach volleyball or basketball, and soaking up the sun with their friends. And we certainly don’t like to spend our pre-dawn hours in the library. The fact is that we live in a culture obsessed with success that can be measured: grades, scores, numbers; concrete things. Especially in colleges and universities, this leads to a hyper-perfectionist attitude that, even at more laid-back campuses such as mine, manifests itself at least for a couple of weeks out of the school year.

While trekking through the long journey that is Finals Week, it’s important to remember that you do have a life outside of the tests and the projects. Don’t neglect your health! I’m not exactly the poster child for end-of-the-year healthfulness (I often forget to eat) but I’m working on it. Here’s a quick rundown of things that should be just as important to you, if not more important, than getting that grade:

  • Food. Be careful not to “stress eat” and binge on unhealthy treats while studying. It’s easy to go buy a bag of Cheez-Its or 5 from the library vending machine when you’re pulling a late-night study sesh and need something to keep you going. But be conscious of your choices: not only are fruits, veggies, and small snack servings the healthier choices, they will keep you energized and clear-headed for all your tests. Processed junk foods and large portions will make you sluggish, anxious, and in the worst shape possible for tests. On the other end of the spectrum, don’t be like me and forget to eat! Often we get caught up in our packed schedules and forget to pencil in time for food, but you need nutrition to make it through the long week. If you’re really struggling, get your friends to remind you to eat. I’m not joking! When I was up studying for that test last week that I had literally one night to prepare for, I told my friend to remind me when the cafeteria opened so I remembered to go get food.
  • Hydration. Just as important as food, water will keep you steady and strong during Hell Week. Ideally you should be drinking three liters a day. Smart Water sells bottles in 1L and 1.5L sizes, so I like to buy those when I’m at the library working hard and refill them during study breaks. Or you can always buy a reusable bottle such as the ones sold by Camelbak (http://www.camelbak.com/), some of which have filters that take out all the nasty chemicals you sometimes find in tap water.
  • Socializing. You need human interaction to make it through this week with your sanity intact. Studying in groups is a great way to get your people fix while also being productive. If you find that study buddies are more distracting than helpful, feel free to study solo but make sure you let yourself out of your library cave to interact with your fellow human beings at some point. Lots of schools have campus events during finals week designed to help students de-stress and celebrate the end of the year with their friends. My school hosts a Midnight Breakfast in the caf every semester, and a Cafe Chill which is a little study cafe held in one of the dorm lounges giving out free coffee, cookies, and Scantrons/blue books. Look into events like these to keep in touch with your friends: they’re all going through the same stuff you are!
  • SLEEP. Yes, I know the old trope. “College: grades, social life, sleep. Pick 2.” And I know which ones almost every college student would choose. But it is possible to find room for rest even with a packed finals week schedule. I am a total nap advocate. They made us take them in kindergarten when we were always too hyper to sleep, and now when we really need them, society tells us we’re lazy and wasting our life away by taking mid-day snoozes. Not true! Siestas are underrated outside of the college world but are extremely good for your health. Especially after a long daytime cramming sesh, taking a quick nap will help you rally and recover for your next task.
  • Music. Listening to both upbeat and low-tempo music will help carry you through the last few days of the semester. When you’re feeling low on motivation, put on a fun dance track or a rock song, or maybe a song you love and know all the words to. Energize yourself without having to turn to that Adderall and Red Bull. A suggestion: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWAdb1vgoik. Sorry I’m not sorry. It’s a fun song. And when you’re done with the biggest test of your life and just want to relax, something like this will do: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XaymYcrqaxQ&feature=related: Silent Love Song by Jason Mraz

I’m sure most of you are reading this to procrastinate something, so get to it! Stay healthy, stay sane, and remember: summer is just around the corner. See you on the other side!

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