It’s finals season and you’ve procrastinated. Over the next two weeks, you have two 15 page papers to write, but first you have to read the books these papers are based on. After that, you have to study for a barrage of finals, each one harder than the last. Obviously, your finals schedule sucks, so either you have three 8 a.m. finals in a row, or a week free and then three finals on the same day or something. And they’re cumulative. It’s a mess.
At this point you’re stressing and playing the counting game: “If I read about 2 pages a minute and have 100 pages left…” “If it takes me about an hour to write 800 words and it’s a 10-page essay…” “If I watch the lecture at double speed…”
You still need to sleep. You still need to take breaks. You still need to watch your mental health.
It’s easy to get lost in the cramming. But do you remember anything from the last test you crammed for? Writing goes faster when you ramble, but you sacrifice quality.
I’ve been in a class where a student fainted during an exam. I’ve heard someone talk about her thought process when deciding whether or not to purge to get out of an exam. It shouldn’t get to that point. You’re stronger than that.
It’s totally normal and healthy to get stressed out. But stressing to the point of unhealthy behavior is, well, unhealthy. There are ways to work and study – even this close to deadlines – without sacrificing your mental health. And there are things you can do when you aren’t studying to de-stress better.
The easiest thing to do is take breaks. It seems so obvious until you’ve been staring at the same page for an hour and you aren’t sure when you stopped paying attention to your reading. Set yourself a timer. Every 55 minutes, get up and take a break. You can walk around or meditate or fill in a coloring book or just look at pictures of nature.
When you’re taking your longer breaks (please don’t study for six hours straight), do something social. Eat lunch with friends. Watch a movie with friends. Do anything with friends. In most cases, being social is beneficial to mental health. Also, this will force you and your friends to take breaks. Another benefit of this is that it will space out your learning, which some studies indicate may help you better remember the information you’ve studied.
Rest. You need to rest. Your body does not function well if you don’t sleep, even if you think it is. Make sure that you give yourself time to sleep. At least limit yourself to only one all-nighter.
Remember that the campus has utilities to help you manage your mental health, too. Besides a visit to Counseling and Psychological Services, you can look through the Campus Connect emails we get weekly for events that may help you stay healthy. The week of April 23, there was a dog therapy event, a nature walk and an academic success workshop relating to finals. As the semester comes to a close, more de-stress events will be held with greater frequency. Take advantage of them.
I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t call Stony Brook a “hard university.” Finals are hard, and it’s okay to be stressed. But manage that stress. You’ve made it this far. This is that last push up you thought you couldn’t do. This is that final hot dog before you win the eating contest. You owe it to yourself to finish strong without totally compromising your mental health.
Make a study plan and stick to it so you can do well without pulling a week’s worth of all-nighters.
May the curves be ever in your favor.