In my undergraduate days at West Alabama, few days were more stressful than the last week of school. Being a nursing student, these days were often spent pulling all-nighters in the library or waiting for my roommates to finish playing NBA 2K so I could get a quiet dorm to myself to "get in the zone".
Fast forward to now, and I still approach Finals Week as a grad student with the same intensity, but with a greater emphasis on prioritizing my own self-care. Here are a few tips on pushing through!
1. Eliminate Everything That Doesn't Matter
As the famous Gary Vaynerchuk often says, "99% of things don't matter". While this statement is true all the time, it is especially true during the final few weeks of the semester. The hour we spend scrolling through Facebook and Instagram...the 4-hour long Netflix Binge on Saturday night... the Happy Hour hangout that ends at 3 AM and knocks you out of commission for the following day - none of this matters when you're trying to get in the "zone". Prioritizing what has to be done vs. what can be done goes a long way in helping to "get your mind right".
2. Create Your Weekly Schedule
This is something that I started doing every week of my professional life after finding myself with a 55% test average in A&P midway through my freshman year of college (long story for another day, but I did pass this class, lol). Creating a schedule for Finals week allows you to schedule your week and see which tasks need to be prioritized. This is also a huge way of relieving the momentary anxiety that comes with the back-to-back-to-back tests that each count for 25% of your grade in each class.
3. SLEEP! Even If You Have To Schedule It...
Oftentimes, I struggle with finding "happy mediums" and as a result, I either fall all the way back or I'm completely "one-track minded" with whatever task is at hand. This often makes for an unhealthy balance during Finals week where all-nighters seem to be the current theme. While I am a fan of all-nighters, I must mention that before I pull an all-nighter from 2 AM - 8 AM, I often get good rest from 9 PM - 2 AM. The time of the day that you sleep doesn't matter, as long as you get 5-7 hours of rest within a 24 hour window.
4. EXERCISE ... In Some Capacity...
The older I get, the more I realize that exercise is non-negotiable when it comes to maintaining and promoting your physical and mental health. When I say "exercise", most people around me automatically think of a heavy weight-lifting session followed by a 5 mile run - which is the wrong way to think. If you are able to push out intense workouts regularly, more power to you. However, the goal is to get out of the house and do something for 30 minutes to 1 hour which will 1). Give you a break from studying and 2). Improve your physical and mental health. At the very least, this is a therapeutic way to take a pause. Exercise and physical fitness also happens to be the theme of Mental Health America's annual conference this year and was the inspiration behind this commercial that Mikayla and I shot in Los Angeles last month for my clothing company - Abrantie & Signora.
5. Make Studying Fun & Relatable
Studying isn't fun. There's no real need to lie to ourselves. Unless you have a true interest in that certain subject matter, it can be very challenging to get locked in and be able to retain enough information to pass the test. A great way to kinda make study bearable is to make it relatable and fun. Every silly mnemonic that my study group came up with, I actually remembered when it came down to take the test. Additionally, I put the study material into terms that I could remember. For example, I memorized Cranial Nerve No. 8 (Vestibulocochlear/Auditory) because the quarterback of my favorite NFL Team at the time wore Number 8 (Matt Hasselbeck). Using this thought process, I thought of a quarterback making an audible at the line of scrimmage and I thought "Oh, No. 8 is calling an audible. Cranial Nerve must be auditory because audible --> auditory". If you're a Tennessee Titans fan and in the medical profession, this example probably makes perfect sense. If you don't know football, this is probably the part of this article where I lost you - lol. The main takeaway point is to just translate the material into your own language.
6. Quiz Yourself Beforehand
"Pressure is something you feel when you don't know what the hell you're doing" - Peyton Manning
This is something that I started in my early college days. I would gather all of my materials, study guides, and notecards and simulate a true testing environment. Doing this, in my opinion, helps to relieve stress and actually makes the real test easier.
7. Keep Things In Perspective
While Finals week is probably the most important week of the semester, you can't lose focus of the "bigger picture". I wish I had learned this earlier in life. Doing well and passes our classes gives us a sense of pride and gets us one step closer to our ultimate goal -- which is the plan. However, underachieving or not passing a big test or class isn't the end of the world. Having your perspective in the right place allows you to be able to shake off and re-focus when you fall short of your goal. Seeing a failed test or bad grade in a class as a potential opportunity will only inspire you to go harder for the next time.