Top Ten ways to reduce stress during finals

From left: juniors Julia Giordiano, August Schwanauer and Austin Schultz study intensely for their physics and math finals.

Amy Liu

From left: juniors Julia Giordiano, August Schwanauer and Austin Schultz study intensely for their physics and math finals.

Sophie Caldwell, Staff Writer

The next week and a half are sure to be a stressful time for students as we cram for finals. The days right before summer will be full of frantic organizing, memorizing, and calculating how low we can score on a certain final to still get a decent grade in the class. Here are a few tips to make the process less frustrating:

1. Get organized.

If you’re anything like me, you have a massive paper trail dating back to the start of the school year. To avoid a last-minute scramble for relevant tests, notes, and homework, organize your stuff at least a week before studying.

2. Keep your eyes on the prize.

The only reason my sanity is still intact is the blessed promise of summer. An optimistic spirit can help move you along when you feel fed up with studying. Look at each exam as just one step closer to the light at the end of the tunnel. More importantly, remember that each final is only one test in high school—not your whole future.

3. Form study groups and collaborate on a study guide.

A collaborative effort can help you get different perspectives and a sense of the big picture. You can create a collaborative study guide, explain concepts out loud to each other (especially helpful for science or history), and engage in debates. While you’re studying more effectively, being surrounded by friends also makes the process far more enjoyable.

4. Stay healthy and don’t lose too much sleep.

We all have different limitations. Some people can endure a whole week sleeping four hours a night, while others may not be able to function without eight hours the night before. Be aware of what suits you. Getting too little sleep weakens not only your mind but also your immune system. On the other hand, you shouldn’t skip a whole chapter of material just to stick to a strict sleeping regimen. Take care of yourself and strike a balance between work and rest. 

5. Release your tension.

As I wrote this piece, I found myself stabbing a pushpin into a cork board over and over again. I suggest that you find some similarly weird, therapeutic activity that you can do from the comfort of your desk. Something like squeezing a stress ball, plugging and unplugging your computer, or using a dart board can let out any finals aggression.

6. Do something fun.

When I’ve hit a wall with studying, I always go someplace where I will be effectively distracted for at least an hour. Don’t let yourself even think about finals during this time. It’s pointless to stress about work when you are out of the house and can’t do anything about it. Go out, see a movie and forget for a while—you will return refreshed and ready.

7. There’s no shame in crying.

When the finals stress reaches boiling point, feel free to cry uncontrollably into the nearest pillow or scream-sing at the top of your lungs to Lemonade. Suppressing your frustration will only make things worse, so don’t try too hard at keeping a calm image.        

8. Prevent procrastination.

I say this as the most hypocritical human on the planet, but procrastination can lead to the most stressful finals experience imaginable. Block any sites that might distract you and make a list of tasks in order from least to most important. If you find too many distractions at home (kitchen, TV, pets, etc.), study at a more conducive location. If you still can’t get to work, ask some productive friends (we all have them) how much progress they’ve made for some motivation. 

9. Schedule your breaks and make them count.

It’s easy to fall down a rabbit hole of Empire episodes as a reward for reading a half page of your math textbook, so plan short breaks at 1-2 hour intervals rather than going by impulse. Don’t spend all of your breaks on electronics; it’s easier to fall out of your schedule with the endless links and videos. Go running, listen to music, or eat some pasta. 

10. Strategize for the day of the exam.

On the day of your exam, arrive early and sit somewhere calm. This way, you can look over the material one last time to warm up your mind. Take deep breaths before and during your exam, read instructions twice, and mind your time. While you’re in the middle of testing, don’t start to worry about the grade you’ll get; when you finish, move on and don’t obsess over mistakes or confusing questions.