Ways to keep stress down during finals

A student sits at a table with hand in hair.

As the last days of the fall semester wind down to a close and a colder breeze shakes through the peninsula, the stress of finals week has begun to settle upon UMass Boston students. Though some papers and assignments have already been submitted, many more have yet to be completed. Although this time can be a bit overwhelming, make sure to try some stress-relief options. If you don’t know where to start with those, here are a few. 

Though it can be hard to walk away from studying or working on a final paper, taking a few minutes to relax can help avoid the inevitable burn out. The Pomodoro study method can be an excellent way to force breaks, even if it’s just for five minutes to stretch, use the bathroom or get a snack. 

The Pomodoro method focuses on breaking up tasks into small chunks—typically 25 minutes—and taking breaks after each 25-minute interval. As "Todoist" explains: 

“Though Cirillo [the creator of Pomodoro] went on to write a 130-page book about the method, its biggest strength is its simplicity:

1. Get a to-do list and a timer. 2. Set your timer for 25 minutes and focus on a single task until the timer rings. 3. When your session ends, mark off one pomodoro and record what you completed. 4. Then enjoy a five-minute break. 5. After four pomodoros, take a longer, more restorative 15-30 minute break” (1). 

Many YouTube channels also have "Study with MePomodoro Method" videos, which can emulate the feeling of studying alongside another person without the distraction of checking your phone’s timer every 30 seconds. 

However, once this method is in place, what do you do during these breaks? Five minutes is the perfect amount of time to eat a healthy snack to refuel your brain, make some tea or coffee, or just stretch and use the bathroom. During the longer break, that’s the perfect time to reward yourself with an episode of your favorite TV show, a YouTube video, or scrolling on social media. Just be sure to hold yourself to this 15- to 30-minute break, so as to not derail your focus. 

If the Pomodoro method isn’t your cup of tea, there are other options for keeping stress down and practicing self-care amidst the stress. Lighting a candle, if you can, or using a diffuser to release relaxing essential oils into the air can create a soothing environment. Taking a shower can help to clear out any brain fog and mental exhaustion, as well as physically and mentally refresh any tired bodies. Eating a good, healthy meal is crucial to having the brain power to finish finals, and while making something like a cup of noodles or boxed mac and cheese can be quick and easy, foods like these will not provide the mental stamina needed to push through and leave you feeling heavy and lethargic. 

Most important aspect to taking care of yourself during finals is to get rest. Whether it's getting enough sleep, taking naps or avoiding several all-nighters in a row, getting restthough it may seem like a step back in the momentcan help to avoid burnout and ensure your brain is functioning as well as possible. 

Finals can be a stressful time for all students. Your health comes before a grade, although it may not always feel like that. However stressed you may be, it's crucial to take care of yourselfeven for a few minutes. Best of luck with finals, and remember to take some time for you, too!

(1) https://todoist.com/productivity-methods/pomodoro-technique

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