As I round off my last year of college I realize I have acquired a vast amount of knowledge when it comes to the art of cramming for finals week. I have done it all; pulled the almighty caffeine-induced all-nighter, ordered take-out to the library for a straight week, I even experienced a full-blown breakdown, much to the entertainment of my fellow peers. Through trial and error I have done just about everything you could possibly think of that you’re NOT supposed to do when studying for finals. Consequently, process of elimination has left me with the ultimate survival guide of the CORRECT things to do to prepare for the dreaded week from hell. Many of these tips seem like no-brainers and under normal circumstances, they are, however we all know that even simple tasks become complicated when your mind is on overhaul.
1. Exercise – I know it is the absolutely last thing you feel like you can squeeze in but trust me, it will help you tremendously to stay focused, increase efficiency, decrease fatigue and insure you don’t go completely insane. When your body is at rest for an extended period of time it goes into “sleep” mode. I’m not saying you need to do a two-hour marathon session at the gym. Simple things that you can do interspersed between studying for a few minutes at a time. Get up every so often and stretch, walk up and down the stairs, get a drink of water, do anything that will get your blood pumping trough your body again.
2. Eat – This is the perfect opportunity for you to test out the small five meal a day rule. Have a healthy breakfast right when you wake up, even if you’re not hungry this is the fuel you are giving your body that will determine your energy level for the rest of the day/night. Eggs, oatmeal, and fruit are all great options. Pack a little baggie of grapes, nuts, yogurt, an apple, etc. These are all great, easy-to-grab options that you can eat while your reading/writing/memorizing whatever. Pack a lunch item as well, a turkey sandwich on wheat is a great option. Be sure to take an “eating” break every 3-4 hours. So if you eat breakfast at 7 have your first snack at 10, lunch at noon and so on. Dinner you should take a significant break and either head home to make a nice healthy meal or go out with friends (order something with substance). You feed your body healthy things to build muscle in much the same way you feed your body healthy things to feed your brain to gain the mental energy it needs to persevere through this week. (P.S stay faaaaar away from fast food, Chinese take-out, pizza delivery, etc. These foods are filled with fat, carbs and sugar that will spike your energy for a millisecond then leave you feeling tired, sick, bored and fat! See the documentary Super Size Me if you don’t believe me!!)
3. Time management – Who cares if you don’t have any finals until Thursday, get started early so you can get the adequate amount of sleep and eliminate the stress of cramming and procrastination. It sounds elementary but if you physically write out each day and work for 2 hours or so on each subject by the end of the week you will have accomplished more than you would have ever imagined and in a much less stressful manner than doing all of one subject the night before.
4. Drink up – A lot of us rely on caffeine but studies show that by staying hydrated (caffeine dehydrates, fyi) you will actually suffer less from fatigue. Caffeine works for a few hours but the adverse effects are detrimental. If you were tired before, the crash that results from caffeine will make you feel ten times worse than how you felt before. Keep a water bottle next to you the entire time and remember to sip on it constantly. The frequent trips to the bathroom will work towards your two minute bout of exercise to get your blood flowing again….see how this is all coming together?!?!
5. Sleep – I know pulling an all-nighter is tempting but it is actually the worst thing you could possibly do, especially if you are studying for a test the next day. There is such a thing as overworking your mind, much like how you can overwork your muscles in the gym. Getting 7-8 hours of sleep a night is key to a stress-free week. Don’t ignore the signs your body is giving you, if it is done for the night, pack it in and pick up where you left off in the morning. This will be easy to do if you have managed your time and started early. See how these pieces are fitting together so nicely? Brilliant, I know!!
Happy studies to all, just remember, we get to go home soon and do absolutely NOTHING for almost an entire month after this!!! As Vicki from Real Housewives would say, WOO HOO!! (Yes I watch that trash T.V, not even ashamed to admit it!)