10 Tips to Survive and Thrive During Finals Week

Though finals week is often the college student’s worst nightmare, survival is possible! Here are ten tips to survive, and even thrive, during the most challenging part of the semester.

1. Make a study schedule (and stick to it!)

 Planning ahead of time and making a schedule will keep you from feeling overwhelmed and help you to avoid last minute cramming. To be honest, I’m a bit of an obsessive planner… I won’t even try to deny it. My flower printed Erin Condren planner is even color coded to the hour! Though hourly scheduling isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, I’ve always found it helpful to prioritize my to-do list in order to decide which things are the most important. After I’ve decided on the essentials, I often reserve blocks of time throughout my week devoted to accomplishing the specific tasks on my list. This trick has saved me from several nights of last minute cramming and helps me to devote an equal amount of time to preparation for each test.

2. Eat well

As a girl with a MAJOR sweet tooth, I know how tempting Braum’s and Sonic sound during those late night study sessions. However, the simple sugars in these treats only leave me hungrier and lacking energy when it’s needed the most. In order to function at my best during finals week, I try to fill my body with nourishing fuel.  Beef jerky, granola bars, nuts, and fruit are easy snack options (found in the Patriot Store) that support brain health and keep me full and focused while preparing for that upcoming exam.

3. Use your resources

There are so many free resources offered to help students survive and thrive during finals week. For instance, the University Writing Center (*cough, cough, shameless plug here) offers students free assistance with papers at any stage of the writing process. In addition to academic advice, many local churches open their doors to students during finals week, often providing free treats and a quiet study space. If you prefer to stay on campus, the new Coffeehouse, located next to the Union, is a great place to focus!

4. Minimize distractions

In order to overcome the temptation to scroll through Doug the Pug’s social media accounts while studying, I often put my phone in Do Not Disturb mode, or open the SelfControl app on my Mac. SelfControl is a free application that allows you to block certain websites for a period of time. Sorry Doug, finals week is no time for Pugs!

Also, make sure to choose a study space where you can actually focus. Seek out a quiet spot with comfortable seating and make sure to bring snacks and water with you. Rumbling tummies and parched throats are the worst distractions of all- trust me, this distance runner knows!

5. Take a break

After several solid hours of focus, I am in desperate need of a brain break! Seeking sympathy from my mom over the phone, swinging by the pond, or watching an episode of the Great British Baking Show helps me to regain my sanity and awards me the boost needed to reopen the textbook. These short breaks are essential to successful studying and remind me that there is life beyond finals week.

6. Get comfy

Finals week is my only chance to wear my owl onesie without judgment. I suggest pulling out your comfiest, coziest outfit and snuggling down in a quiet place with your textbooks. However, make sure that your finals week ensemble isn’t too comfortable, or you may end up dozing!

7. Exercise

Although exercise may be the last thing on your mind during finals week, this long distance runner can attest that exercise releases endorphins that improve mood and decrease stress. After sitting around all day, a few trips up and down the library stairs would be the perfect brain break. However, if you want more of a challenge, treadmills, weights, and stationary bicycles can be found inside of the university Fitness Center.

8. Put down the coffee

Take it easy on the energy drinks! Although coffee and Red Bull are sure to give a quick boost, too much caffeine can actually increase anxiety. Try green tea or…

9. GET SOME SLEEP

Although this one is difficult, do your best to avoid late night cramming. Trust me, you will not benefit from all-nighters. In fact, sleep deprivation even decreases concentration and leads to memory loss, headaches, and stress! Get some sleep, ideally six to eight hours.

10. Keep an eternal perspective

Although you understandably want to ace all of your finals, remember that you are not defined by test scores. As Christians, our identity is secure in Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. This life is so temporary and each day is a gift from God! During finals week, remember to be grateful for the opportunity to receive an education and rejoice; no matter your grade, God is still sovereign and He is still working for our good.

Written by Leah

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Got Stress?

Stress is a major part of our college lives. As college students, we stress about school, work, finances, food, social gatherings, family events, and the process of balancing it all out. Stress can be really unhealthy when it persists for an extended amount of time. Chronic stress can harm our sleep patterns, immune systems, and digestive processes (National Institute of Mental Health). For this reason, it’s extremely important to find ways to relieve that stress. Even if we have something going on every hour of every day, we need to find time to give ourselves a break.

I myself came to the realization of my workload and stress level last semester when I became engrossed in homework every single day and rarely did anything but go to class, go to work, read numerous books, and write extensive essays. During this time, I explored several different ways to relieve my stress which could benefit anyone experiencing a similar situation.

One way to relieve stress is reading. It’s a great way to escape reality for a bit. We can get involved in another story rather than our own. Whether it be poetry, fantasy, history, or dramas, reading forces us to focus on that idea instead of the things that give us stress. However, maybe you’re tired of reading. Maybe you’ve simply read too many books to be able to enjoy reading right now.

Instead of reading, you could try writing. I know, I know. “But I’ve just finished writing three 2-5 page essays!” you may say. Well, writing about our passions is loads more fun than writing academic essays for school. Trust me. Writing can help us focus on something specific and get our minds off whatever has been bothering us or stressing us out. For example, composing poetry can hone our senses on certain details about objects, people, or ideas. If poetry is a little out of your comfort zone (as it is for me), fictional writing is a good alternative. Much like reading, writing fiction can immerse us in another world, but this world is our own. Through fictional writing, we can create an entire world full of interesting characters and stories and use it as a temporary escape from reality.

However, if your enjoyment does not reside in writing, maybe you’d prefer something a little more artsy. Sketching, drawing, or painting can be considered leisurely activities, which may sound fun and peaceful to you. But my personal favorite type of art is coloring. It may sound silly, but coloring is a great way to relieve stress. It’s such a calming and pleasant exercise. It reminds me of the simplest time of my life: kindergarten, when the most difficult decision was deciding which crayon or marker to use. I think we as stressed out college students need to revert back once in a while to those more manageable stages of our lives in order to stay sane. So don’t feel awkward about going to the store to buy a coloring book and some colored crayons or pencils. I myself have to buy a new coloring book and some newly sharpened pencils every now and then.

One of the easiest things that I have done in order to reduce the stress in my life is simply taking a walk. Last semester when I was drowning in school work, I took up to an hour to walk around the DBU campus once a week. It may not sound like much, but it helped me out a lot. It gave me time to clear my head and get my thoughts in order. It was hard at first, forcing myself to do nothing when I knew that I had so much to do. But eventually, I came to love it and couldn’t go a week without taking my evening stroll.

I know that you may feel as if you do not have any time during any day of any week to take a break. But I implore you to make time for it. It doesn’t have to be every day; your break could be only a couple times a week. It doesn’t matter. What matters is your state of mind. Don’t let the stress of life consume all of your thoughts. Sit in your bed and read a chapter of that book that’s been on your reading list forever. Chill out on the couch and color while you listen to your favorite tunes for half an hour. Take a leisurely walk around the block. If you have time to stress, then you should make time for relaxation.

“5 Things You Should Know About Stress.” National Institute of Mental Health, 2018. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/stress/index.shtml

Written by Taylor Hayes

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Full Faith During a Full Schedule: How to Use Faith as a Guide During Chaotic Times

I am currently a full-time psychology student at DBU, as well as a part time on-campus worker. Because most student-worker jobs pay little more than minimum wage, getting a second source of income was almost a no-brainer: it’s a little more practical than simply not eating throughout the semester. After applying at a local retail store, I now have the equivalent of a full-time job as a full-time student. More importantly than my student and professional status, I am a believer in Christ, the one who gives strength and provides clarity in difficult times. My chaotic season inspired me to encourage myself and others enduring overwhelming circumstances to use the power of God to help us succeed.

Begin the Day With God

Before jumping out of the bed to cram for the big midterm today or turning on the coffee pot to brew your first of today’s three cups of dark blend, give thanks to God for actually waking you up. Delight in His presence, and ask Him to clothe you in gratitude, servanthood, and protection. Begin the day with faith that these requests shall be received and that the Father is near, no matter what the day brings. “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times and in every way. The Lord be with all of you.” 2 Thessalonians 3:16 (NIV)

Be Intentional in Serving God

Many can recall days we would attend school or work only to perform minimally. Instead of considering school as a route to a good job, think of it as a place where God has given ongoing blessings of wisdom and opportunity to learn from a variety of people. Rather than complaining about your stale work routine or your less-than-pleasant supervisor, remind yourself that your job is more than completing tasks for a paycheck. Your job is also an opportunity to gain field experience, socialize with others, learn about new cultures, and to simply serve others. “My son, if you accept my words and store up my commands within you, turning your ear to wisdom and applying your heart to understanding—indeed, if you call out for insight and cry aloud for understanding, and if you look for it as for silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.” Proverbs 2:1-5 (NIV)

Let Go and Let God

In hindsight, we often find that the harder we try to manipulate events in our favor, the more out-of-control events seem to become. Day and night, we stress about the things of the past and more things yet to come. In lieu of focusing all of your energy into trying to control everything, give yourself the freedom to be out of control. We, alone, do not possess the power to curate and manipulate life completely, nor do we have the strength to maintain these manipulations. The Lord, however is omniscient and omnipotent. He knows everything about us and what’s good for us, and He carries the power to execute His great plans. Many have come to find that we don’t receive much power in attempting to rule over our worries and responsibilities. We receive power by admitting that we find strength in the All-Powerful God. Give Him your burdens and seek His wisdom in going forward. “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV)

Be Still

Begin your day with God in mind, labor intentionally for the Lord, and have give Him your burdens. Now be still and trust that God is up to the task of supplying your every need and more. Believe in your prayers, align your mind with God’s desires, and feed your faith by being still. “He says, ‘Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.’” Psalm 46:10 (NIV)

Written by Ashley

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Letter to the Overwhelmed Writer

Dear Overwhelmed Writer,

First of all, you are not alone. Even the most experienced writers can get bogged down in ideas, sources, and deadlines. I have learned from experience that writing assignments can definitely be stressful. Sometimes the page count is just too daunting, or the right words are hard to find. However, I have some good news: no matter what it is you’re struggling with, it can be overcome.

For starters, a good way to cut down on the stress of writing assignments, no matter what kind, is to go into the writing process with everything already prepared. If the writing process is for a paper, gather all of the sources, quotes, and information ahead of time and have them readily accessible. If you’re writing a story, write out the main idea and make sure that it makes sense and that all the important details are accounted for. Next, outline. Every piece of writing should start as an outline. Any easy way is to go scene by scene or paragraph by paragraph and write down the ideas and information you want to use in that section. The easiest way is to also include any quotes or statistics with their sources in the outline, to avoid having to hunt them down later. Then, when the writing process starts, it’s just a matter of converting the ideas into words. However, the key is to do all of the preparation ahead of time instead of the night before. Researching and outlining can sometimes be a long process, and an impending deadline can cut the writing time short.

Although the worst is now over, writing itself can sometimes cause anxiety. There are many times where the right words just aren’t coming to mind. For situations like this, a thesaurus will be your best friend. It helps a lot to be able to look up similar words that will often lead to a better synonym. Another tip that often helps with writing is waiting until after the work is completely done to do any editing. Getting caught up in going back and making changes slows down the process and sometimes the entire work needs to be complete to be able to tell if an idea makes sense or not. If necessary, cover the entire screen except for the line or two you are currently working on. Then, once it’s finished, go back and check for spelling, grammar, and fluency. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help if it feels like things aren’t going well. The Writing Center can be a great resource, and having a second set of eyes can help.

There you go: some tips to get you through the stress of the writing process. Now that you know how to beat the overwhelming feeling, you have all the power in the world. Next time you feel the anxiety setting in, start early and be prepared; you’ve got this in the bag. So, go forth and write!

Written by Taylor

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Fire Drill

Picture this:

It’s 5 o’clock on a Monday, and I just found out that I have three major assignments due before the end of the week. There’s no telling how long it’s been since my hair has been washed, laundry is piling up, and I’m teaching my very first lesson to a group of kindergarteners tomorrow morning. On top of all that, I’m taking 18 hours of classes, working 25 hours in the Writing Center, and I haven’t gone to bed before two-thirty a.m. on a single night in over a week and a half. To say that I’m stressed is an understatement and a huge one at that.

So, in all of my infinite wisdom, I decide to take things on one at a time. I decide to prioritize the tasks at hand and do the most important things first. I naturally decide to watch The Office.

Okay, so maybe this wasn’t the wisest decision, but hear me out before you judge. On that very cloudy, very crummy, completely overwhelming Monday, The Office taught me something I’ll never forget. But, before I get ahead of myself, let me set the scene.

office-stay-calm

Season Five, Episode Fourteen.

Dwight Schrute, Assistant to the Regional Manager, decides it’s time to have a fire drill. Since nobody paid attention to the fire safety presentation he gave last week, Dwight decides to make the drill a little more creative. What better way to do that than to jam all of the doors leading to the exterior of the building, to scorch the door handles with a torch, and to start an actual fire in the office? When his co-workers finally notice the smoke, havoc is wreaked, and they quickly try to evacuate the building. As they sprint around the room, screaming, pushing, and burning their hands on door handles, Dwight calmly announces fire safety procedures in the midst of all chaos. Ignoring his existence entirely, Dunder Mifflin’s finest staff completely lose their cool. Oscar climbs through the rafters to retrieve help, Angela fears for the life of the cat she’s hiding in the filing cabinet, and Jim attempts to bust down the door by slamming the copy machine against it. In the meantime, Michael throws a projector through his second-story window, and Kevin prepares for his last meal by shattering the glass of the vending machine. Commotion continues, and all the while, Dwight never ceases to provide safety instruction for his coworkers, yet, engulfed by the intensity of the stressful situation, his colleagues fail to utilize his guidance.

Now, let’s stop there.

I don’t know about you, but this scene, though I had seen it twenty times prior to this particular viewing, held more value to me on that day than it had ever before. There they were, my closest friends in Scranton, living through what might have been the most stressful experience of their lives; here I was, a poor and struggling college student still pining for her future husband, John Krasinski, living through what definitely is the most stressful chapter of her life. And yet, neither they nor I decided to look to the only One in charge of situations at hand that day. Instead we looked to people. We looked to our possessions and food and things of this earth. We looked to ourselves, hoping that we could conquer the stresses of our lives on our own. We did all of these things and chose to ignore the ones in charge. I failed to ignore the One in charge.

We, as Christians, tend to think that we have complete control of our lives. We exhaust ourselves daily by trying to keep up with the demands of the world on our own, and all the while, the Lord calls to us, yearning for us to submit our worries unto Him. Why is it that we are so slow to turn to Christ for guidance? The truth is, He already knew if those three major assignments were going to be completed, when they were going to be completed, and how well I was going to complete them. He already knew that a restful weekend would come at the end of the week, that my mom would help me do my laundry, and that my kindergarten lesson would be a success. He already knew the outcomes of every task I was stressing over, and all He was asking me to do was to turn to Him, having faith that He would give me the strength to make it though.

Today, I encourage you to look to Him. When finals start and presentations begin, turn to Him for the wisdom and strength. Don’t flounder in your own fire drill, but turn to Him.

Written by Haley

“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on the wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” Isaiah 40:31

Image credits: Header image, Everybody Stay Calm .gif

Dealing with Stress

We’re all familiar with the feeling of being overwhelmed. Whether it’s half a dozen homework assignments all due on the same day, a lot going on at work, or friend drama, everyone experiences stress from time to time. Although it is sometimes inevitable, there are a few things I’ve discovered over the years that make it easier to cope with stress.

The first and somewhat self-explanatory way to help is to keep from spreading yourself too thin. If you know you have a big paper due in a couple of days, don’t make a lot of plans with friends and only leave yourself a couple of hours to do the assignment. Using a planner or calendar to schedule plans and projects that you have to do is the best way to avoid over-booking your time.

Another key when trying to cope with stress is making sure to give yourself time to relax. Yes, it is important to be productive when you have a lot going on, but it is also critical that you set aside a few minutes to take a walk, watch your favorite show, or have a short nap. Taking a step back from the work can help calm you down and will give you a fresh perspective when you return to it. I would even suggest turning off all electronics so that you can completely clear your mind. No matter what you have going on, allow yourself a few minutes to decompress.

Finally, remember to lean on the Lord. God can give you peace even when you feel completely overwhelmed. When you feel the stress coming on, take a moment to say a prayer and ask the Lord to calm your heart. No matter what the situation is, He is in control and will use it for good. I often find myself so focused on the issue at hand that I forget I have a wonderful savior who can give me serenity. I’ve learned to stop and pray the moment I begin to feel stressed out and it always helps almost immediately. As He says in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you…let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”

Written by Taylor

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It’s Not Enjoyable. It’s Not Healthy. It’s Not Worth It.

Stress: a word that often appears at the top of a college student’s vocabulary list. We are exhausted, always, as stress and pressure to excel academically is ever-present in our lives. Whether it is brought on by parents, professors, or one’s own drive to succeed, stress holds an intense amount of power in the way that we interact with the world, and, more importantly, stress can definitely hinder our relationship with God.

Now, let’s be honest.

I’m the type of person who greets each new semester with a big smile and arms wide open. I get thoroughly excited about picking out new school supplies, and the smell of sharpened pencils brings me entirely too much joy. My obsession with new supplies and organization is so real, that the TV show,  “My Strange Addiction,” reached out to me in hopes of doing a segment on the girl who sniffs sharpened lead (JK, but it wouldn’t surprise me if this actually happened).

The moral of this story is that I love school, and, for the most part, I enjoy completing assignments that require creativity and prepare me for my future career as an educator. I have a passion for higher education, but sometimes that passion transforms into complete and utter drudgery.

Being that I literally will NOT submit anything less than my best for grading, an abundance of stress and exhaustion begins to reside in my being not too long after the start of a new semester. Like my second cousin at Christmas time, stress storms into my life, unwelcomed, and refuses to leave until I’ve fed it all of my time and energy. This relationship with stress is toxic. It affects not only me, but those who are gracious enough to want to spend time with the girl who lets an unnecessary emotion control her life.  It’s not enjoyable. It’s not healthy. It’s not worth it.

Why is it that I, like so many others in my generation, insist on allowing stress to consume me? After three years of struggling and fighting and persevering to succeed in a collegiate world dominated by stress and pressure, I think I finally found the answer:

Priorities.

For the past three years, my number one priority has been to perform in a way that would please my professors, make my family happy, and impress my peers; I wanted nothing but for others to find pleasure in and be impressed with my doings.

Were these bad desires? Not exactly. But, there were some drastic flaws in my intentions, which were, what I believe to be, the causes of my stress filled life.

Had performing in a way that pleased God been my number one priority, I would have been reminded that He longs for me to work wholeheartedly for Him and not for man (Colossians 3:23). I would have been humbled in the fact that He is the source of all of my creativity and talent (Ephesians 4:17). I would have found peace by reflecting on how He has an everlasting, passionate love and care for me that is not based on the quality of my work or the grades that I receive (Romans 8:38-39). I would have sought to please Him more and others less.

We, as sinners, spend too much time living and striving and breathing to find approval from the world that we often become blind of the approval that God has already given us. So, we work hard through the stress, and we get the good grade, and, though we win the approval that we desire at the time, we almost always end up just as empty as before because we sought acceptance from everyone but the One who actually matters. Whose opinion of us is never less than wonderful. Who sees our imperfects, yet loves us all the same. It really. isn’t. worth it.

Some anonymous smart person once said, “Be a prayer warrior, not a panicked worrier,” and that is exactly what I encourage you and me to do today.

prayer warrior

Whenever you’re feeling stressed or worried or that you must do everything on Earth and Mars perfectly in order to get someone to approve of you, stop. Take a second to pray and ask the Lord to help you find your worth in Him, and I can promise you that stress will be much more hesitant to come around.

Written by Haley

Photo credits: Featured Image, Prayer Warrior