As we inch closer to exam week, it is easy to feel F.I.N.E.—Freaked out, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional. 

While the stress of exams and the holiday season might cause overwhelming feelings of needing to “get it all done,” it is important to remember that only so much can be completed in one day. College students are often faced with the temptation of pulling “all nighters,” assuming that the less sleep one gets, the better their performance will be on an exam. Instead, lack of sleep can actually decrease cognitive performance and memory, leading to more forgetfulness and mistakes while completing tests or papers. 

Rather than running on fumes, take a moment to consider taking care of yourself this exam season so that you can show up with a clear mind and put your best foot forward.

Here are some self-care tips to help you keep a sharp mind and positive attitude:

Work in shifts: Even if you are cramming, it’s hard to retain a large amount of information without giving time for memory consolidation. Consider taking short breaks between 5-15 minutes for every 45-60 minutes of studying/working.

Play study music: Music without lyrics can help break up the monotony of studying without being distracting. Consider free study tunes on YouTube, such as classical music, Chillhop or coffeehouse jazz.

Remember to eat: Being busy can easily turn into forgetting to eat, or eating too much junk food. Try to balance between the two by planning a break to go to the dining hall, or meal prepping. Even simple healthier quick snacks, like nuts, fruit, sparkling water instead of soda or protein bars can help keep you fueled and focused without the sugary crash.

Catch some Z’s: Resist the all nighter! Even a little bit of sleep is better than no sleep at all. If you find yourself having trouble overthinking while you try to sleep before an exam, try taking a moment to tense up your muscles, then slowly relax them. Do this for different muscle groups to help take your focus off of your thoughts. Or try paying attention to your five senses while taking slow, controlled breaths. Lastly, calming music or white noise can help with relaxation. Even searching “ocean waves” on YouTube and playing it while you fall asleep can be helpful.

Manage your worry: Some worry about exams is healthy and productive. It might help you to start studying NOW (*hint, hint*) as opposed to last minute. Unproductive worry comes when we have difficulty focusing on work or completing tasks. It might cause us to feel overwhelmed and lower confidence. Challenge the unproductive worry with helpful reminders that you will be okay, no matter the results:

“I studied as much as I could, now it is time to perform as best as I can.”

“My worth does not lie in any single course, assignment or test. I am still a good person even if I don’t perform as well as I would like.”

“Rather than overthinking, I am going to take this time to cope and reset so I can get in some productive study time later.”

We hope you find these tips helpful in navigating your end of semester to-do list. On behalf of CAPS, we wish you a successful end to your semester and a relaxing winter break!

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