You are at the end of an unusually stressful semester. Spring semester 2020. You will still be talking about these past few months when you are eighty years old. There is no disputing the fact that you have experienced high stress this semester.
Now that finals are here and you are preparing to display how hard you have worked, you may still be experiencing feelings of fear, failure, and overwhelm. At a time when you should be feeling some excitement about the end of a school year, your body and mind are most likely still in an active stress response, in part from your response to Covid-19.
You may find yourself feeling more worried than normal, maybe more anxious than normal, and perhaps more overwhelmed.
Now is the time to become aware of your stress so you can manage and regulate stress levels during exam week (Think: Scale 0-10). You will want to maximize your study efforts with smart planning and organization, a clean mental space, and ramped up wellness practices.
Keep in mind that a little healthy stress (eustress) around exam time is needed. You would not be productive or prepared if you did not feel a little angst in the next few weeks. Note that these feelings will disappear once your exams are over.
Stressing too much about final exams is what you are trying to prevent because raising the level of panic and letting false thoughts about yourself and your efforts during this time serves zero purpose. In fact, allowing yourself to believe that you are not prepared, that you do not really care, or that you are going to fail any way only gives more strength to the already absorbed stress.
Take some time to STOP what you are doing and let those negative thoughts pass through you. Let them exist (do not try to avoid, deny, or ignore them). Let them make their appearance, BUT, do not attach your feeling to the thoughts. They are simply thoughts. Let them be. And, watch them go.
Now, really focus and become aware of what you can do at this very moment to move through this next week with less of an impact of stressful thoughts. This might look like changing your nutritional habits, making a new study schedule, or planning out the next ninety-six hours to the minute with charts, timers, mind maps, or flow charts
If the reality is that you are going to fail a class, that there is no salvation, then move to the next class that gives you the most stress and begin to organize a study schedule and make a study plan (FREE TIPS offered on IG @studentsstresslesscoach), and focus with intention.
Here are TEN physical and mental strategies to help you monitor stress so that it does not interfere with your studying:
1. When you feel yourself getting tense or experiencing some type of physical manifestation of stress, stop and direct your thoughts to what is happening in your immediate environment. What do you see? What can you smell? What can you touch? Rub your hands together to feel your own skin. This technique is an effective strategy called STOP (Stop, Take a breath, Observe, Proceed).
Really ground yourself while you practice being present.
2. Several times a day stretch and breathe. Incorporate “4-7-8” or "square breathing". You can do this wherever you are.
3. Seek out or start a conversation with someone. Talking can release ruminated thoughts about failing or fear of being unprepared. Let others support you.
4. Administer self-massage to your face, neck, shoulders arms and hands. Or, apply "third eye" acupressure to the middle of your forehead. (https://www.powerofpositivity.com/heres-happens-massage-point-forehead/.
5. Regain a feeling of control over your situation by reframing your thoughts. Instead of thinking "I'm so mad I left this until the last minute.", slowly move your thoughts to what one action step you can take to make you feel in control of studying the material. There is always an upside to most things in life. It is up to you to take your mind to that place.
6. It is never too late. Never too late to try a new way to study. Never too late to take a quick nap to rejuvenate your brain. Never too late to email the TA. Never too late to try again. Never too late to plan.
7. Accept what is. If you have backed yourself into a corner in a particular class by not attending class, not working harder to bring up a failing grade, not keeping up with assignments, accept your current situation but trade the blame and shame for a more positive acceptance like "this is my eye opener", or "this is a touch lesson". We all learn from our experiences. Use your current situation as motivation to do better at something else.
8. Avoid or monitor caffeine, alcohol, sugar, and sugar drinks including smoothies and energy drinks. You want to maximize the quality of your sleep.
9. Move your body. This can be vigorously or gently. Or, incorporate some of both. The idea is to give your brain a break and your body some love.
10. Believe in yourself. Think of all you had to do to even get to college. Remind yourself of your successes along the way. Life is about "wins and losses", mistakes and lessons. Mostly working through stress in life is about exercising the skill of being resilient. Part of being resilient is accepting what is, loving yourself, and knowing that your college life is only one part of your life experience.