For most people, exercise seems like the worst form of punishment, especially when stressed out. Why, one might ask, would you force yourself to be active when you’ve already had a hard day and would really rather do anything but? The answer is that exercise may just be one of the best, most effective ways to cure stress, alleviate fatigue and feel better overall. According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, as little as five minutes of exercise can have anti-anxiety effects. The Mayo Clinic suggests exercise as part of any stress-relief routine. Just a small amount of exercise — 50 jumping jacks or a quick dance session with your favorite song — can have tremendous effects on your mood and stress levels. And exercise doesn’t have to be terrible! When I need a quick mood lift, I like to find the Fitness Marshall on YouTube and dance with his hip-hop cardio routines. He takes my terrible dancing and makes it fun!
2. Take a bubble bath (or hot shower)
People seriously underestimate the benefit of a good bath. It is not just sitting in a warm tub full of water, especially if you actively try to make it more than that. Light some candles, invest in a bath bomb from your local drug-store (or make your own), don’t be afraid to dump a whole bottle of shower gel into the water and then just let yourself relax. Even if you lie there for only five minutes, you will emerge a renewed, amazing-smelling human being ready to slay your finals. If you don’t have a bath, hot showers are just as great. It’s not often that we actually relax in the shower, especially during the busiest time of the semester. Take some time at the end of your shower routine to just feel the water falling over you, and clear your mind.
3. Make lists
Finals season can leave you wondering how on earth you will get everything you need to do done. Almost every minute of the day, it seems like you remember something else you need to do. You might as well just kiss your life goodbye because finals will surely kill you! Well, we are here to tell you that when all you’re doing is stressing about deadlines in your head, you won’t get anything done. The best way to avoid this? Make to-do lists! It’s scientifically proven that writing things down helps you solidify your goals and make them more attainable, and it’s a great way to stay organized and get a grasp on what you actually have to do. You can include everything: assignments, study sessions, even showers. Watching your list shrink will be like your own personal advent calendar leading to your freedom. But make sure to build in time for fun and recreation — life shouldn’t be only about work. Plan to do something you love in short bursts in between the studying.
4. Eat good food
Your first instinct when finals stress hits will most likely be to reach for that Ben and Jerry’s pint in your freezer, but wait! While ice cream can provide instant gratification with its creamy deliciousness, it may end up leaving you feeling worse off than when you started (especially if you’re like me and can easily eat a whole pint or two). The best thing you can do for your body when you’re stressed is feed it good food. Really good food. Yes, that includes the typical things: eat your veggies, don’t skip breakfast, etc., but it is more than that. You may feel like you only have enough time to cook up a bowl of ramen noodles for every meal, but trust me when I say taking an extra 15 minutes out of your day to make a good well-rounded meal will not make you fail any of your tests. Plan easy, delicious meals ahead of time, and make sure you stock up on all of your favorite healthy snacks for those long study sessions. Most importantly, just make sure you’re remembering to eat. Your body will thank you, and you will thank you after saving yourself from gaining 10 pounds due to a diet consisting solely of ramen and ice cream. After it’s all over, go buy yourself a giant hamburger, burrito, or pizza … you deserve it.
This suggestion might seem self-explanatory, but studying and cramming aren’t necessarily the same thing. Rather than leaving your studying to the last minute, frantically reviewing your notes and hating yourself all the while, start studying early and give yourself time to review. This might require a few sacrifices — this coming Dead Day, you might have to say no to partying with your friends and spend your time in more boring pursuits, such as reading your textbook — but it will make you feel better when you sit down in front of your test and feel your anxiety subside as you realize that you understand the material covered. And studying doesn’t have to be lonely! Getting together with your friends to go over your notes and to help each other study can be one of the most effective ways to retain information. Helping each other prepare in this stressful time can lighten the mood, reduce stress and help you achieve a higher grade.
This has been our guide to surviving your finals. The most important thing is to remember that, no matter how bad things seem now, in two weeks this will all be over. Congratulations to those who graduate and good luck to the rest of you poor saps who have to do this all over again next semester. May your grades be good, your anxiety quiet and the overwhelming panic kept at bay at least for a little while.
Dominique Kent studies English and journalism. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @DominiqueTrekker.
Emily Fisher studies journalism. She can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.