There are a lot of people I love who are feeling a great deal of stress facing final exams this semester. I wanted to share some practical tips that I hope will help to settle those nerves and help you to soar through the next few days so you can wrap up for Christmas feeling relaxed and ready for 2020. I feel almost certain there is someone who can’t wait to have you home for a while. So, let’s get this over with!!
1) Far too often we approach things like schoolwork, studying and test taking as an “I have to get this done”, “My professor is making me do this” or “I hate to study”. Try CHANGING YOUR PERSPECTIVE. Here’s the thing about education…particularly a college education….it’s all about you. You are there because you have an opportunity to learn things. Things that will help you to be more successful, to chase your dreams and to help ensure that you can support yourself into adulthood. Someone is paying for you to be there. Yes, it stinks having to write papers and take tests…but what if instead of looking at everything as “I HAVE to” you start saying things like “I GET to”. I know it’s cliché, but there really are people all over the world who would love to be able to get any education. You’re one of the lucky ones. Take advantage and be grateful. You might be surprised at how differently you feel when you look at it that way.
2) Fill your mind with positivity and SPEAK KINDLY TO YOURSELF. Remind yourself regularly that you are smart, you are brave and you have what it takes to be successful. I doubt you would say to a friend, “You’re going to fail this test or you’re too stupid to learn this.” Yet, you may have said those exact words or something close through self-talk. Remember this, you haven’t gotten this far without persevering through a few difficult things…so trust that you will do it again. Start your study session listening to music that encourages and uplifts you. Maybe even an anthem that reminds you how amazing you are. Start each day with a few minutes of prayer focusing on gratitude for all the blessings you have. Avoid thoughts of dread and failure. Fear and worry are almost always much worse than the actual event. Talk to yourself like you would encourage your best friend. Start with, “You've got this!!”
3) SET SMALL GOALS and REWARD yourself frequently for meeting them. Sure an entire semester worth of Chemistry notes is a lot to take in….but if you break them down by studying a couple of week’s worth of notes at a time followed by a short break in between, it becomes more manageable. You might even try studying an hour and then giving yourself a ten minute break to check social media as a reward…..but remember, that can be a dangerous trap. Set a timer and put that phone down when reward time is over!
4) Keeping that in mind, PUT YOUR PHONE OUT OF SIGHT DURING STUDY SESSIONS. You are not able to effectively manage the material you are studying and the distraction of your phone…trust me. Even on silent, the temptation to pick it up to check notifications every few minutes is far too great. Put it far, far away from you and you will accomplish so much more. Out of sight will hopefully mean out of mind.
5) EAT WELL AND GET REST. Students are often tempted to snack on junk food and pull all nighters to get ready for exam week. This typically is not the best plan. Be sure you have some brain food on hand (blueberries, nuts, dark chocolate, coffee in moderation) and get rest to avoid wearing down and becoming ill. You are much more likely to do well on the test after a solid night’s sleep than when your body is running on empty.
6) MAKE GOOD CHOICES. More often than not, the anxiety increases because students have not made the best time management choices leading up to the test and they are feeling unprepared. There will always be another opportunity to hang with friends or to binge on Netflix….choose the thing that has the longest impact on your future…in this case, studying. It does take a lot of will power, but life is full of a series of doing what you have to do so you can do what you want to do and this is no exception. Going back to #1, you are in this situation because you have chosen to get an education for future success. Failing to plan is planning to fail. Choose wisely.
7) TAKE ADVANTAGE of any review sessions, office hours or tutoring that are offered. Again focusing on point 1…this is about YOU. The job of the professors is to give you the material and to support you in learning it….your job is to take what you’re given and learn. Exams aren’t about them. Their job is done. It’s now about you and your ability to demonstrate your competency with what you’ve been taught. Use the tools at your disposal. ALL of them.
8) When you start to worry, ASK YOURSELF THESE QUESTIONS. “How much will this matter in five days?” “How much will this matter in five months?” “How much will this matter in five years?” Often we make a way bigger deal of things than we need to. Things really do work out. If you’re giving it your all and it doesn’t go as planned….hang on a few days, a few weeks, or a few months. It will get better and you will likely be better for the experience.
9) Always remember, THIS TOO SHALL PASS. If you were to survey adults who received college degrees, I can almost guarantee you that 100% of us has a story of failure during our college tenure. Maybe it was a failed test, or a failed class, or a failed semester or even failing out before finding something that felt like a good fit. In life, failing often results in moving forward….even when it feels like going backwards. As a mother of a college student, I’ll speak for parents everywhere….we want you to do your very best, to feel proud of what you’ve done, and to learn from the mistakes. That’s all you can do.
10) If your anxiety is overwhelming, SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP. Your school has resources with trained professionals who are there to get you through this difficult time. There is ABSOLUTELY NO SHAME in seeking out someone to help you survive this. You are not alone and no one wants you feeling so desperate you aren’t able to see any hope. What you are feeling is real……talk to someone about it.
I pray that at least one of these tips gives you something you can hang on to over the next couple of weeks and that you can breathe a little easier (for a few moments anyway). You are accomplishing great things…..be proud of yourself….we are super proud of you.
“You is kind, you is smart and you is important!”