The funny thing about stress: It has the tendency to sneak up on us at the most inconvenient times. And our bodies all respond differently to stress, depending on the type of person we are, the season we’re in, how much experience we have with that particular type of stress, and the list goes on.
As a graduate student, this is obviously not my first rodeo with finals week. By the end of my undergraduate career, I started to pull it together and learn what works and what doesn’t as far as studying habits. And I also learned that if you do the work throughout the semester, you are a lot more prepared when finals come around (better said than done, right?) But now, here I am, in my first semester in graduate level courses and it’s happening to me. Cue the anxiety and the stress. All I can think about is my twenty page policy paper due in one class – and another 12 page essay-style exam due in the other. You can forget about me getting a head start on Christmas shopping or spending time with friends. I’m sure my dog and my boyfriend miss me dearly.
So what better time than now to discuss ways to keep healthy in times of stress and anxiety. Because, truthfully, when the fit hits the shan, is when your body needs to be taken care of most :)
Finals week is most likely one of the most stressful weeks in college. But these simple rules apply and can help when you are under any kind of pressure – be it school, work, or planning a big event.
The general theme here is you must love yourself first, even if it seems like you don’t have the time to do so.
Allow your body the much-needed time to rest.
We all tend to perform better when we’re rested. Don’t fool your body into thinking you will be more successful if you stay up all night studying.
Also, give yourself permission to take breaks.
Preferably, before you hit your breaking point, because if you continue to push yourself – you will break. So take a walk, clean your room, or call a friend. Even better, experiment with meditation and just try being still for a few moments, see how long you can last. I am taking a break right now from studying to write this post. You will come back to studying feeling refreshed and more focused, which will make your time more productive.
Mind your diet. Getting a sufficient amount of vitamins and minerals will help make sure your body has the mental and physical energy to stay alert and focused.
Specifically, you will need plenty of iron and vitamin B. Also of importance are protein, fiber, and calcium. And preferably from whole foods, not supplements.
Fruit and nuts are some of the best foods you can eat for optimal brain functioning. And the natural sugars in fruit provide your body with a fresh energy that you won’t crash from. So while you’re studying, munch on some blueberries or almonds. Or my favorite healthy snack: slice up some apples, and toss ‘em in a baggie with your favorite spice: cinnamon, nutmeg, or pumpkin spice – the spices will help you stay alert. I call these dirty apples; I love them because apples are so cheap and this is a quick simple snack you can toss in your bag.
Veggies are a great source of vitamins and fiber also. Try bringing a baggie with sliced green bell peppers or some carrot sticks with you to the library.
And, staying hydrated is extremely important (all the time) but especially when your body is under stress. As much as I love coffee, make sure you are drinking plenty of water as well.
My favorite tip, Go for a run!
Running (or really any form of aerobic exercise) is a fantastic way to clear your mind and push endorphins into your body, which can lower feelings of anxiety. Another great benefit from running is that it boosts your energy and will help you stay focused through the day – so try to get in a run (or other workout) before you do anything else in the morning. Run outside so you can enjoy the cool weather and soak up some of God’s natural beauty in nature – this should also help put you in a positive mood. Then drink a yummy green smoothie and hit the books.
Finally, organize your time with a detailed schedule.
Prioritize what things need to be taken care of first, and go from there. Be sure to include in your schedule time to rest, prepare food and eat, and take care of yourself. A schedule will help you keep on top of things!
Hope this advice helps!! Good luck on finals everyone!! And here’s another great idea … make these rules habits and part of your natural routine, so next time finals week rolls around or another stressful situation, taking care of yourself first will come organically.