How to Cope During Finals Week
December 3, 2010
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. – While children across America are “nestled all snug in their beds”
having hung their stockings “by the chimney with care,” Illinois Wesleyan students
are more likely to be found snuggling next to their fifth cup of coffee as they frantically
memorize those last few equations and read the novels that seemed to have slipped
away earlier in the semester in preparation for finals.
While some students rely on tradition and superstition to survive finals week, such
as Jaclynn Sullivan, a psychology major, who eats an entire Papa John’s pizza before
taking her first test or Sarah Carlson, a nursing major, who has used the same pencil
on every final since her freshman year on campus, others look for techniques that
are a little more conventional. Bob Rogers, mental health counselor at Counseling
and Consultation Services, offers tips to help students achieve their final goals.
• Avoid stressful people
Some people feel more relaxed when they can get others around them to feel stressed
or worry with them. Avoid these folks during exam week because they will raise your
anxiety and you will become less productive in your study habits. You may even find
yourself taking care of them.
• Do Not Procrastinate
Procrastination leads to nothing good. It also increases anxiety and makes you feel
overwhelmed. Most people procrastinate because it is a way to avoid anxiety. Anxiety
and procrastination go hand in hand. Logically we know that it is not a good idea
to cram a whole semester's worth of information into one night of caffeine induced
studying. The way to overcome this is to plan ahead. Attack your hardest exam and
seek resources to help you if necessary. Set a schedule and stick to this schedule.
Practice the 3 P's of time management - Prioritize (your hardest exam/or what is most
important), Plan (set up a schedule to study) and Protect (stick to this schedule
and do not allow distractions).
• Eat Healthy and Exercise
Practicing good self-care during stressful times is of utmost importance. Skip foods
that will make you crash like high carbs, greasy foods and foods that contain caffeine
or high sugar. Alcohol is definitely a no no. If you are studying for long periods
of time, eat healthy snacks like fruits, vegetables or nuts. This will help maintain
your blood sugar level. Also exercise can help reduce stress and recharge your batteries.
Even exercising for short periods can be beneficial in helping to manage the stress
one feels during finals. Students often say "I don't have time to exercise". I explain
that by allowing good self-care they will be more productive in their study habits,
concentration skills and information retention and recall.
• Get Good Sleep
Pulling all nighters is never a good idea. Even if you have had success doing this
in the past this can be a false illusion that future all nighters will lead to success.
When one is tired it is very difficult to concentrate and leads to difficulty in recalling
information previously learned. We know that there are only 24 hours a day and many
students try to extend their days by reducing the amount of time they sleep, reducing
exercise or skipping meals. All of these are bad ideas and counterproductive to good
self-care which we know is so important to academic success. Good time management
will help reduce the risk of skipping things that are so important to overall good
self-care. The amount of time one needs to sleep fluctuates, but most students need
6 - 8 hours of sleep to function at their best.
• Force Yourself to Take Breaks and Just Say "No"
A good rule to follow is allow yourself to take a short 10 - 15 minute break for every
1 - 1 1/2 hours of studying. This will get you refreshed and keep you focused, which
will make studying more productive and help you maximize your time. When we do things
that make us anxious and that we don't like (like studying intensely) many temptations
pop into our minds. Have the ability to resist these temptations at the moment and
use these as rewards for completed study session. Just like when we were kids - no
dessert until you eat your vegetables. No hanging out with friends, watching TV or
getting on Facebook until the studying is done.
• Keep Everything in Perspective
Stressing out can drive you and your friends crazy. You will become the person everyone
is avoiding. It also will not help academic performance. Make sure your self-talk
and cognitive thoughts are positive and are not predicting failure and disaster such
as - I am going to fail this exam and my future plans will be ruined. Negative thoughts
generally lead to anxiety and depression which affects academic performance. If you
need to talk to someone or access resources that can help you, The Counseling Center has licensed professionals that can help you prepare for finals, and study effectively.
Go to www.iwu.edu/ccs/ to find out more about The IWU Counseling Center and to access some good resources
on line. Also the Academic Skills Series is another great resource - www.iwu.edu/advising/success/.
Contact: Kasey Evans ’12, (309) 556-3181