It’s finals time on many campuses in the US. Stress and exhaustion are higher than ever for most students (as well as professors). Here are a few things you can do to maintain an optimal sense of wellness under extreme pressure.
Feel free to revisit my previous post on the value of breathing for mental well-being. If you find yourself short on time, however, you can also take a minute to simply focus on your breath. Close your eyes and breathe deeply, feeling the breath all the way down into your belly. Think only about your breathing. The moment a thought enters your mind, gently return your focus to your breathing. Even doing this for two minutes will decrease your sense of stress and anxiety immensely.
When you need a break from studying, consider doing a brief meditation. I highly recommend the Stop, Breathe, & Think smartphone app, which has meditations varying from 3-20 minutes long. Most are under 10 minutes. They also have tips to teach you how to meditate and track your progress. Those few short minutes are worth the investment!
Because I know you won’t be sleeping as much as you need to during finals week, instead I’ve focused on food and water. Be sure you are drinking adequate water to avoid additional fatigue and sluggishness. This is especially true if you are guzzling a lot of coffee during finals, as that will dehydrate you more.
I know it’s hard to eat well when you’re a poor college student (or poor graduate student or professor!), but you can still make some smart choices. In general avoid anything with added sugar or anything that’s highly processed, as those foods don’t provide as much nourishment and will lead to a quicker decline in your energy. Instead, choose real foods like nuts, fruit, water, cheese, carrot sticks, etc. Even if you can’t do this all the time, the more you choose these foods over processed food, the better you will feel. Try to snack throughout the day to keep your energy levels even. It’s easy to obsess too much over food, so seek to find a balance that allows you to be mindful without it causing additional worry.
Go outside for breaks
When you need a break, consider a brisk walk outside. Or if you are feeling tired, take a walk to the library, student center, or a cafe to get outside and change scenery. Connecting with nature will help you feel refreshed, grounded, and clear-headed. It will also help you feel better if you spend your study breaks being outside, or meditating, instead of spending more time with technology. This is because being in nature and meditating both change our brain waves.
Good luck with finals! Be well.