If you’re reading this, you’re probably a college student, and so I probably don’t have to tell you that college is stressful. Okay, that’s an understatement. College is extremely stressful, especially this time of year. It’s November; we’ve made it to the homestretch. We can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel, that is, if it weren’t for the finals and papers and presentations piling so high that we can barely see tomorrow.
I get it. I’ve been there. Around this time three years ago, I was an anxious freshman preparing for my first set of college finals. Overwhelmed by the stress, I went into procrastination-overdrive. I binge-watched the first five seasons of “Pretty Little Liars” on Netflix, I dyed my hair (three times), and for some reason, I even started going to the gym. What I did not do: study, catch up on homework, literally anything productive. Now, as I approach my last month of college, that stress is back and looming larger than ever, but for the first time, I feel equipped to handle it. Here are some strategies I’ve acquired over the years to help me deal with the stress of finals, and I hope they can help you, too.
· Pretend the due date is earlier than it actually is. I’m the kind of person who, even though I know it will inevitably end in disaster, cannot start a major assignment until the night before it’s due. The time crunch forces me to sit down and focus, whereas I get distracted easily if I know the assignment isn’t due for a while. At the beginning of the semester, record all your due dates a week early. This will trick your brain into going into “last-minute focus mode” while still giving you some cushion time.
· Break assignments into smaller, doable parts. Instead of trying to tackle an entire eight-page paper at once, focus on one part of the paper at a time. First, you need to choose a topic and find sources. Then, work on one paragraph or point at a time. Reward yourself with a snack or break when you get a major section completed.
· Take breaks … but not too many. I can’t stress this enough. Breaks are super important. You will get drained if you try to work for too long; however, it is equally important that you don’t take too many breaks or break for too long. Set a timer. I try to work for 45 minutes and take a 15-minute break.
· Find something that relaxes you. Not counting break times, try to sit down at least once a day to do something relaxing. This can be meditation, coloring, yoga, reading, or listening to music.
· Don’t keep your stress to yourself! Chances are, your friends and classmates are just as stressed as you! Vent about it to each other! Help each other study! As much as it may feel like it sometimes, you are not alone in this. Also, the EKU Counseling Center is a great place to go if the stress still feels like it’s just too much. Never be afraid to ask for help.
· Finally, and most importantly, go easy on yourself. I was once the nervous freshman, overwhelmed at the very mention of finals. I was the poster child for the “sophomore slump.” I was the junior panicking about graduate school applications and the real world, and now I’m the senior, counting down the days until I walk across that stage. When I think back on my college experience, I don’t think about how I did in freshman English or the time I showed up two hours late to my final (which my professor, thankfully, still let me take). I think about the friends I made, the clubs I joined, and all the wonderful, crazy, stressful, irreplaceable memories I have made here. Of course, grades are important, but your happiness and mental health are worth so, so much more.
(The author, Yasmin White, pictured in inset, will graduate summa cum laude with a bachelor's degree in English literature in December 2017. The Paintsville native, who has worked as a student writer with EKU Communications and Brand Management since 2017, plans to attend law school.)