How to stay calm and organized during the final weeks of the semester

A black calendar marked with events and plans in December.

As December rolls in, the final weeks of the semester have crept up upon students here at UMass Boston. Levels of stress and anxiety are rising, and for good reason. The last few weeks of the semester mean final papers, presentations, speeches, and final exams, and it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by having to do so much work all at once. Though it’s likely impossible to keep completely relaxed during this period of time, here are some tips that will help you stay organized, and will hopefully help to calm you down.

  1. Use a planner/agenda book

If you’re anything like me, you’ve been voraciously writing down each homework assignment, test, and paper in a planner since the beginning of the semester. If you’re not like me and you haven’t been using a planner, I really suggest that you try out this method of organization. Using a planner allows you to see what’s due when, and to visually plan out which assignments you should do on which day. 

If you have a weekly/monthly planner, my recommendation is to write out every assignment you have due for the month on the day it is due in the monthly section. It is helpful to use colored pens or highlighters to help you distinguish which items correspond to which class or responsibility you have that month. In the weekly section, I recommend creating a to-do list and a homework section for each day. In the to-do list section, you can write down the different assignments or parts of assignments you have to do that day to stay on track, and cross them out when you’re done. In the homework section, you can write down the homework you received in each class you had that day, in order to stay on top of any new assignments that may come your way.

  1. Take up meditation

If you are feeling extremely overwhelmed by the amount of work you need to get done, it may seem counterintuitive to take some time to close your eyes and try to think about absolutely nothing; that’s precious time that could be spent doing work! However, meditation is a really helpful technique to practice when you’re feeling overly stressed, because it grounds you. Additionally, it will not take that long! In order to practice meditation, all you need to do is sit down, close your eyes, and breathe. Try your best to focus on how your breath feels entering your nostrils and exiting your mouth, how your body feels sitting wherever you choose to sit, and on the noises around you. It is likely that your focus on the things occurring in your body and in your environment will not last long, and that your mind will wander back to everything that you need to get done. Accept this fact without judgement, and try to return to focusing on your meditation practice. 

Personally, I like to meditate at night, once I’ve cut myself off from doing work all day. I use the Sanvello app because it allows me to choose between a wide array of soothing noises to have on in the background while I meditate. The app also lets me set a timer for how long I would like to meditate (which is usually around five minutes), which goes off with a soothing chime once my session is over.

  1. Organize yourself for the next day, and then cut yourself off from work

Tip number three is a combination of the first two tips. Firstly, you should set aside a time during the day when you will stop working, or decide on an assignment that will be your last for the day. After you’ve cut yourself off from work, it’s a good idea to set up your to-do list for the next day, and then fully delve into relaxation mode for the evening or night. This way, you know you’ve done all you can do for the day, and you’ll have a plan for the work you must tackle the next day. After creating this to-do list, try your best to not think about any unfinished work, as it’ll likely only stress you out.

After you’ve cut yourself off, you may find yourself with a whole evening free, or only about 10 minutes before you go to sleep. Either way, try to take at least a little bit of time to do something you enjoy, whether it’s spending virtual time with your friends, enjoying a meal with your roommates, or just watching a YouTube clip before bed.

Though the end of the semester is a stressful time, you will endure, and it will be over before you know it. Hopefully, this article gave you a new strategy to try, or at least something new to reflect on as you continue in your college career.

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