This finals season, get an 'A' in self-care
Jose Gardea studies for a final on Dec. 3, 2016. Some stress in college, especially around finals week, is to be expected, but if it persists, you may be suffering from anxiety.
It’s finals time again, and more likely than not, you are scrambling to cram every piece of information from the semester into your head before the dreaded final exam. We’ve all been there a time or two; I know I have. When I studied biology in the early years of my undergraduate degree, I took biology, chemistry and calculus classes all at once.
I spent days holed up in the library, barely leaving to sleep and attending tutoring 40 hours per week, and the food I ate was on-the-go food that could barely be considered nutritious.
By the time finals were over, I was exhausted, I felt like sleeping for days and, more often than not, I was sick for the first week of the much-needed winter or summer break.
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The bottom line is that I wasn’t taking care of myself. For me, taking a break wasn’t an option. I had to pass my classes so I could finish my bachelor’s degree, move on to a graduate degree in Marine Biology, get a job at a marine mammal training facility, train dolphins to aid in dolphin-assisted therapy and do conservation research. It was a wonderful dream, one that I was willing to kill myself to achieve.
Then, I realized what I was doing couldn’t be found on the spectrum of healthy. Trust me, it was a shock to have someone tell me I was going to make myself more miserable than it was worth. But I digress.
Right now, it’s time for finals, and I have some questions for you: What are you doing for yourself in this time of chaos? What are you doing to take care of yourself?
I know the stress of finals makes it seem like you don’t have time for anything else, especially when your grade depends primarily on your midterm and final exams, but remember, you’re not going to do yourself any favors by burning out. Take some time every day to do something unrelated to school. All you need is half an hour, maybe an hour, to decompress.
Go for a run or to the gym, take a walk and get yourself a froyo on University, paint your nails, plan a hike with some friends or take the time to actually cook your dinner instead of getting take-out. Do something that gives your mind a break. You will feel more refreshed and ready to tackle your work when you step away for a little while.
Think of it like this: When you’re studying and filling your mind with information, it’s like you’re filling a balloon with water. Eventually, that balloon will expand to the point of rupture, because there is no more space. When you step away, you’re giving the balloon, your mind, time to adjust to the information so when you come back, it’s less likely to buckle under the pressure.
The University of Illinois found that breaks increase productivity in a 2011 study. All learning takes adjustments and acclimation. Practicing self-care gives your mind the opportunity to do just that. The campus offers a variety of activities during finals week to help you take a break and center yourself. Your mind and mental health will thank you, and you’ll be better prepared to tackle your finals.
Alexis Richardson is a graduate student of journalism, enjoying delicious leftovers from her family Thanksgiving. Follow Alexis on Twitter