Reyna: Mental health tips for finals

Christian Reyna, Staff Columnist

It’s that time of the year again: finals. It’s time for students to push through multiple exams—for the unfortunate ones on the same day—after suffering, for many, through days, if not weeks, of procrastination. For first-year students, some of you don’t know what to expect and will dedicate your time to frantically studying. 

Whatever your situation, it is important to step aside for a moment and ensure you are taking care of yourself. I may only be a second-year student, but I have found the following strategies to have helped my friends and me destress and feel better. 

Sleep! To risk sounding like a broken record, I’ve found that getting a full 8-9 hours of sleep the day before my exams really helped with my performance and mental health. Set yourself a bedtime that guarantees yourself that amount of sleep, even if it means having to stop studying. There is no use in trying to cram the night before and heading to your exam the following day half asleep. You won’t be able to remember a good portion of what you crammed and will likely feel groggy while taking your exam.

Coffee is practically the symbolic drink of finals. While we routinely drink it to give us energy throughout the day, we need to be wary of it during finals. Cut back on caffeine, especially at night. Drinking coffee or energy drinks right before you sleep inhibits quality sleep. If you don’t usually drink coffee, limit your intake so you won’t be dependent on it. Drinking only one cup is enough to wake you up and give you enough energy to tackle your exam. Don’t go overboard with multiple shots of espresso. Drinking too much can lead to a caffeine crash, making you feel worse afterwards.

Some of my friends have found that turning off social media notifications on their phones really helped them stay focused. Our excessive checking whenever we hear a notification wastes a lot of time and interrupts our concentration. If you can’t live without checking your phone, have a friend study with you and keep it in their backpack so you won’t be tempted to reach for it.

On the subject of friends, it is important and beneficial to study with one. I’ve recently started studying with a friend who has helped me focus and provided support whenever I didn’t feel great or needed help. Locking yourself in your room to block out the world can increase concentration, but having someone with you can help relieve some stress when you’re in need of venting. It’s even more helpful if you’re studying for the same exam. If you can explain how something works to your study partner, that reinforces your knowledge on the subject at hand.

Take the time to do something fun as a break. Buy a short novel as a way to distract yourself from your work. Reading a chapter or two will definitely help your brain relax for a bit. Heading to one of our local museums is also a must. You can get lost in them for over an hour, leaving you refreshed and motivated to do your work afterwards. Eat somewhere in University Circle outside our meal plan or head to downtown Cleveland with a friend to see everything our city has to offer during the holiday season. There are a lot of fun things to do during the semester’s homestretch. 

Lastly, call home often—this may be to a parent, sibling or friend. Returning home often feels so close yet so far in the final weeks of the semester. Calling home provides you with a nice break, catches you up with what has been happening and can comfort you. For me, calling home never fails to make me feel more content.

While some of this may be redundant, sometimes it takes a reminder to truly use most of these tips. We’re all tired, but we only have a couple more days to get through this semester. On the bright side, we get a long break afterwards so make sure to finish strong. Even if you don’t perform well, you deserve a long rest and can take pride in knowing you tried your hardest. 

Christian Reyna is a second-year biomedical engineering major who plans to obtain a Spanish minor. When he’s not writing, he is usually thinking about his two Pomeranians back home in Texas and procrastinating on his homework.