Finals week looms large in the minds of high school students, and stress levels often soar as the semester comes to a close. Students work hard to manage the pressure of performing on cumulative exams and completing end of term projects. Anxiety may rise for high achievers who want to perform their best, as well as students who are struggling to master the course material and are trying to catch up.
While there is inherent stress related to performance, being graded, and evaluated, each individual is able to decide how to handle the experience. Integrating some simple, yet effective stress-busters can make all the difference on how one navigates finals.
Self-care: One cannot pour from an empty cup, so it is essential that students do not deplete theirs.
- Do not underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep. Sleep is not what we do with leftover time, rather, it is essential for daily functioning. Sleep helps to lower cortisol (the “stress hormone”), improve mental clarity and alertness, and restore energy. Learning is solidified during rest. In order to recall all of the information you have absorbed, sleep is necessary. Students may think that cramming the night before a test is the way to go, but actually, sleep deprivation decreases one’s ability to concentrate during the exam. Go catch some zzz’s!
- Food does a body good. Skip the fast food and sugary drinks. Fuel your body with healthy, nutrient dense brain food like berries, nuts & seeds, eggs, dark chocolate, avocados, dark leafy greens, and omega-3 rich foods. Stay hydrated and choose water. You will stay healthy and your body will thank you.
- Exercise! Get your blood flowing, some feel-good endorphins pumping, and boost your mood. If you don’t have time for your full work out, go for a walk or jog, lift some hand weights, strike some yoga poses, or even dance around your room.
Take a time out: Make time for yourself! Talk or hang out with friends, read a good book, listen to your favorite music, go for a walk, or whatever helps you to unwind. Pick up those colored pencils, as coloring has been found to relieve stress and is a wonderful mind clearing activity. Soak in a bubble bath to ease muscle tension, and let your stress go down the drain. Free apps like Calm or Headspace provide guided meditation, breathing programs, and relaxing music. Remember to breathe. Sure, you breathe 24/7, but controlled, deep breathing lowers anxiety.
Prep and review: The best way to find out what you need to review is to ask questions. Schedule time to meet with teachers so they can help focus on the most essential information to study and provide you with tips for most study strategies. A detailed calendar with exam dates, paper & project deadlines, and anything else you need to make time for will help to organize and manage your time.
Work a bit at a time: Bigger is not always better. Studying in smaller, more frequent chunks improves retention because of primacy and recency effects (when given a load of information, you are more likely to recall the information at the beginning and at the end better than what came in the middle). Similarly, trying to cram in one long study session is ineffective because it is physically and mentally exhausting. Breaking down study sessions into manageable time blocks maximizes learning.
There are plenty of ways to relieve stress and worry. Self-belief has the power to make a difference in your exam performance. Throughout finals week, don’t forget the mantra, “I am prepared, and I have got this!” Give some of these tips a try, and remember: you have the ability to support your own success.
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