June 23, 2024

How to relieve stress and do your best this finals season

As the semester comes to a close, another finals season is on the horizon. With all the stress of tests and papers, along with balancing work and a social life, this time of year can seem impossible to manage. 

Here are a few tips and tricks for staying organized, de-stressing and taking care of both yourself and your grades in order to finish out the semester strong, instead of overwhelmed and exhausted. 

Study Success 

1. Less cramming, more breaks

While cramming can sometimes be necessary in the life of a busy college student, something big like a final exam will require a bit more preparation. 

According to The American Psychological Association, “the more time you take between study sessions, the better off you are — at least within the time limits of an academic semester.” 

Allowing time for breaks between study sessions, as well as consistent review and study, will help you to retain information better. This will allow for improved memory retention as well as greater skill in actually applying concepts both in exams and in your future career. 

A popular method of taking “brain breaks” during study sessions, the Pomodoro Technique, can also help retain information while allowing the brain to rest to improve memory and lessen anxiety. 

The Pomodoro Technique suggests studying for 25-30 minutes before taking a 5 minute break to relax. This brain relaxation means taking a walk or eating a snack, not getting on your phone. 

2. University and class resources

The university offers resources for preparing for any exam or final paper. Through Academic Success, students can schedule an appointment for a peer tutor in any area of study. Writing consultations are also available for assistance with papers. 

Additionally, Blackmore Library has study rooms available for anyone to check out for group study sessions or needed quiet time. 

Asking for help from professors and using any resources they provide can help fully prepare for exams and final papers or projects. Your professors are here to help; office hours and emailed questions can often go a long way. 

Self-care and de-stressing 

1. Taking care of your body

According to Harvard Health Publishing, “research shows that the best brain foods are the same ones that protect your heart and blood vessels.” These include leafy greens, fatty fish like salmon or tuna, berries, tea and coffee and nuts. 

These food tips are helpful for brain health, but largely, eating regularly and maintaining a balanced diet is essential for all straining activities. Taking care of your mind and body helps prepare you for anything, don’t fall behind in taking care of yourself for the sake of a grade.

Getting enough sleep is another vital aspect of preparing yourself for any exam. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, “Sleep helps with learning and the formation of long-term memories. Not getting enough sleep or enough high-quality sleep can lead to problems focusing on tasks and thinking clearly.”

Staying up late to cram for an exam the night before will keep you from being prepared for the exam and will keep you from retaining any long-term information for the future career you want to pursue. 

2. Dealing with stress

The sheer stress of finals can often be a large obstacle to overcome. Practicing the previously mentioned tips of studying in intervals, reaching out for help, eating well and sleeping well are all ways to lessen stress, but can feel like a rigid schedule sometimes. 

Self-care is an essential part of not only dealing with stress during difficult times, but also protecting your general well-being at all times. According to Michigan State University, “self-care is any intentional act to tend to our own physical, mental and emotional health and well-being.”

Self-care includes things besides basic necessities like sleeping and eating. Watching a favorite movie or tv show, relaxing with friends or rewarding yourself are all ways of treating yourself for hard work. 

Even on the occasional lazy day, treating yourself is important. Sometimes the most difficult thing is getting through a bad day. When the work seems to pile up, the best thing to do is relax before over-stressing about it. 

3. Staying connected at school

According to the Mayo Clinic, friendships “enrich your life and improve your health.” Staying connected and making time for friends and family is a great way to lessen anxiety about academic hardships. 

Reaching out for support from those you love can help you relax about finals and help you remember the good beyond school stress. When school can become overwhelming, it can be important to remember it isn’t everything. Prioritizing health and relationships over school can make it easier to get through. 

Finally, the university is hosting upcoming events in order to take study breaks and relax. Upcoming events, which can be found on Engage, include:

4/16: Miracle Kid Card Making in the Student Union lobby from 1-3 p.m.

4/17: A petting zoo on Schaaf Lawn from 3-5 p.m., as well as the Spicy Food Challenge hosted by the Students of Latinx Affinity and the Asian American Alliance in the Denvy Bowman Center in the Student Union from 6:30-8:30 p.m.. 

4/18: WXCU Day on Schaaf Lawn from 5:30-8:30 p.m., an evening of live music, free food and a volleyball tournament. 

Overall, the best way to stay prepared this finals season is to pace yourself. Study well, take breaks and do everything within your power to be ready and relaxed on test day. 


  • Megan Mitchell

    Megan is a second-year English Literature and History major. She is a Smooth Transitions mentor, an editor for ReCap, a student archives assistant at Blackmore Library, and a member of Film Club. In her free time she enjoys reading and watching movies.

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