As the end of Fall quarter approaches, some of us may have already begun getting into the holiday spirit by hanging up lights, decorating our houses inside and out, or watching some holiday movie classics with family and friends. We all get excited for the festivities, but one thing always remains in the way of our holiday happiness. And that’s the dreaded finals week.
We all want to avoid our final exams and go straight to enjoying the holidays, but we first have to get over this last academic obstacle. But how can we get over the pressures and stress that comes with finals week? How can we best take care of our mental health during this stressful week? And what’s the best way to study for the exams that count towards nearly half of our grade? Well… there’s no BEST way to prepare for final exams or to take care of ourselves. It all depends on your own pace of learning and how you practice self-care. By no means are we saying that we’re experts, because we’re not. But there are some very helpful tips that have improved our own study habits and could help YOU get the most out of finals week. So, get your hot chocolate, tea, coffee, or whatever warm beverage you enjoy the most ready and let’s learn how to improve your approach to finals week.
It’s important to know that some of these tips may work for some and not for others. And that’s okay. Try them out and find what works best for you. As long as you see progress doing what’s most comfortable for you, that’s all that matters! Now, without further ado, here are some tips to help you tackle finals week.
Time Management & Procrastination
During finals week, it’s especially hard to manage your time when you’ve got so much course material to review and study for in such little time. Maybe you have two final exams on the same day and you just can’t seem to figure out how you will study for each. Or maybe you left your 10-page final essay for the last minute and you’re panicking trying to finish it on time. We’ve all been there. We’ve all procrastinated with deadlines and exam dates. But it shouldn’t have to be this way. We can overcome procrastination and there are ways to significantly improve your time management skills that will help you meet your academic goals.
One helpful way to improve your time management is to create a daily/weekly planner or Google Calendar. Having a weekly schedule can help you set realistic goals for studying, eating, and resting. By visually seeing how you spend your time, you can easily remember and make time to accomplish all of your deadlines and commitments. You can also calendar based on how much energy you have at a certain time in the day. If you tend to get most of your work done in the morning, try to make time for your more difficult assignments at that time. Similarly, if you’re a night owl and have the most energy to do your work at night, then set your easier tasks for earlier in the day and your harder tasks later. By organizing your tasks based on your energy levels in the day, you can prevent burnout and complete harder assignments when you feel most productive.
2) To-Do Lists
Similar to calendaring, writing down your to-do list or using online tools like Google Keep or the Notion app will help you manage your work throughout the week. Looking at a list of all of your assignments for the week can be intimidating. So, breaking up your responsibilities for specific days of the week can be a little more encouraging, relieve some pressure, and allow you to remain on track for your goals. Setting a routine is an effective way for you to keep up with your assignments and to balance your time.
3) Avoiding Procrastination
We’ve all procrastinated before. Sometimes we get away with it by submitting an assignment just minutes (or seconds) before it’s due. Sometimes we don’t get away with it and we regret submitting an assignment late. No matter the situation, we end up placing so much pressure and stress on ourselves by putting things off for the last minute. And some of us repeat this cycle of procrastination. But, we can get rid of these bad habits and avoid procrastination by following some of these tips.
Study Tips & Self Care
It’s important to acknowledge that you have final exams and essays, but also spend time taking care of your mental health. Here are some ways to improve how you study and how to practice self-care during finals week.
1) Avoid Cramming & Pulling All-Nighters
We all tend to cram the night before an exam, but this can actually add more stress and exhaust more of your energy than needed. Sometimes there could be class material that takes up more studying time than we had anticipated or practice questions we forgot to do. This extra stress will only add to the anxiety already built up before studying and will potentially cause burnout earlier. It’s best to plan ahead with your studying time and create a schedule that accommodates for all the work you may need to do.
2) Take Breaks
Making sure that you allow some time for breaks so you can refresh yourself and regain some energy you need to continue your work. A quick 15-20 minute power nap or guided meditation can help re-energize yourself to finish your assignments. Don’t feel that you need to earn breaks. Take them when you feel you need them.
3) Get Enough Rest
It’s best to get the amount of sleep we need to recharge our bodies for the next day. All-nighters will only make us feel exhausted the next day and limit our productivity. So, resting our bodies will give us the energy to be as productive as we can be. It can be helpful to set a time for you to stop studying so that you can take care of yourself and go to bed on time.
4) Practicing Self Care
We all have our own ways of practicing self-care, so it’s important to do what works best for you and at your own comfort. Make sure to reward yourself for your accomplishments and attend to your mental health by trying out these tips. And remember that self care shouldn’t be earned, but done whenever you feel you may need it.
I hope that these tips are helpful to you and are things you can try out to improve your approach to finals week. Remember to take care of your mental health and acknowledge your accomplishments during this stressful week. The Mental Health Peer team wishes the best of luck with finals and happy holidays to you all! You got this!
- Jose, Mental Health Peer
Post-graduation life can be both exciting and unsettling. After completing 2-5+ years at college, many graduates embark on new journeys. Some people might move back home with family, others may be starting grad school, and some might be kick-starting their careers. Everyone’s path is different, and it is completely normal to feel lost and uncertain at the end of your college experience.
Currently, in the midst of an important social movement and a pandemic, it can be hard to feel grounded and focused on usual life goals. There are huge changes happening not only directly in our personal lives, but in the bigger systems we are part of. Some of these may be impacting us directly and causing pressures in our lives that are hard to manage. The goal is not to ignore these external and internal events, but gradually learn to cope with them in a healthy way.
Graduating from college sparks a huge transition in our lives. Many graduates have been in school non-stop for the past 16+ years. This means years of classes, homework, exams, extracurriculars, and deadlines. Now that there is a change in routine and responsibilities, there may be a strange loss of purpose or direction. Some feelings that may be coming up are anxiety, hopelessness, stress, sadness, or feelings of numbness. Whether you’ve had to move back home, start a new job, or are entering a new living situation, it is important to take time to care for your mental health. While all of these circumstances can spur some sense of discomfort, working on personal well-being can help you be the best version of yourself alongside navigating your role in the world.
Here are some things that have been helping me, and might help you, too.
There are also some online resources that create a safe space to talk to someone if you are feeling distressed:
The MHP website also has some detailed resources on this transition: https://www.ucsbmhp.com/making-changes--navigating-transitions.html
I wish you so much luck on your post-grad journey. You’ve got this!
-Tashia, Mental Health Peer
I cannot believe I am saying this... but I miss the library. I miss having a place designated for studying, surrounded by like-minded college students living off of Yerba Mate and the desperate Subway sandwich meal that they’ve probably had 4 times that week. One of the challenges brought forth by COVID-19 is the displacement of several students into uncomfortable living situations, where it may be difficult to find a place to study or even relax.
If you are experiencing difficult family dynamics while living at home during this time, you are not alone. Some students may now experience an increase in responsibilities that they didn’t typically have during the school year, such as caretaking. This can be incredibly hard, especially while being a full-time college student and trying to complete other remote work from home. College also acts as a safe haven for many students, giving them physical distance between them and their family members. Now that they share the same physical space, many people feel like they have less independence and less control over their familial relationships. A few examples of some difficult situations that one might face while home are having a family member with a mental illness, difficult financial situations, lack of space, or just not feeling understood by your loved ones.
Also, underlying tensions can be magnified because of the stressful, unusual, frightening circumstances brought on by the pandemic. Family therapist Helen Park of Manhattan’s Ackerman Institute for the Family, a mental health clinic, says that “the climate for everybody is such an acute, pervasive level of anxiety. That kicks up the sympathetic nervous system; the fight-or-flight fear responses are very much always on. That's where you get problematic cycles of interactions, which are so difficult to interrupt if you're in a heightened state." Many people (myself included) have noticed that squabbles occur more frequently and often tend to escalate. This emotional distress coupled with a persistent feeling of anxiety can be overwhelming at times, so it’s important to pay close attention to your well-being.
Some things that may help us when we are in these situations is:
Self-care has always been hard to practice and maintain. I have a tendency to start the quarter by practicing and balancing self-care but once Week 3 (really Week 2) comes along, I drop most self-care routines. It begins to feel like I have no time or it is just another task I must complete. However, this time around, things have changed drastically. Self-care has become a part of my survival and necessary for my ability to cope through collective trauma, remote instruction, physical distance, and so much uncertainty. Just like I need food, water, and sleep; I need to make sure I am nourishing myself and intentionally taking care of my mental health.
For me, self-care looks like extending kindness and compassion to myself. It means that I am learning to accept there will be days where I am not productive and that I make sure I am connecting with my community and loved ones. It is Week 5 and everyday I practice self-care. This looks like:
I am learning to be more attuned to my body, mind, and soul. Self-care does not need to be extensive, it is about the intention to nourish and listen to what your body, mind, and soul are telling you. This can be a few hours of your day, an hour, or a few minutes. The time does not matter as much as the act of it. These difficult times have shown me how essential it is for me to pause and take care of me. Self-care is not another task, it does not mean I am selfish or lazy, it means I am attuned to my own needs and I am respecting and honoring my entire being. Today’s self-care for me looked like sharing with you all my journey and practice of self-care. What does self-care look like for you?
-Veronica, Mental Health Peer
Welcome to Week 5 at Zoom University - UCSB edition, of course. It’s another day of waking up later than usual, rolling out of bed ten minutes before that 11 AM lecture, scrambling to find your lecture notes from last week, all while trying to figure out what your *Zoom fit* of the day will be.
As we prepare to head into Week 5, infamously known for being one of the weeks that most students have midterms (You got this!) we begin to feel the increasing weight of our responsibilities fall onto our shoulders. For some of us, we returned to our hometowns, to the places we knew as home before coming to UCSB/IV, whereas some of us stayed in Isla Vista, a home away from home. Whether you’re back home or in Isla Vista, one thing is for sure - we aren’t just students, our roles are much greater than that. For some of us, we’re the third parent, the caretakers, the educator, the provider, the example.
*DING* my bad, just got called into another Zoom meeting at Zoom University. As I was saying… during quarantine, you may begin to feel your motivation decrease, but don’t be too alarmed! We here at the MHP Program, along with the help of other wellbeing services available, are here to help bring you ease during these hectic times.
Here are some tips that could help you stay positive and gain motivation while adapting to Zoom University and the COVID-19 Pandemic in general:
In conclusion, here are a few additional tips to help keep you positive during these hectic times:
1. You got this!
2. Believe in yourself and speak your goals into existence
3. Stay home for the safety and wellbeing of yourself, your loved ones, and for the health of others in general.
4. Take advantage of any extra time you may have on your hands - call your family, read that favorite YA book for the sixth time, watch a new television show, discover a new interest, research topics that interest you -- the list goes on, and so shall we :-)
-Vic, Mental Health Peer
I’ll admit it has not been easy adjusting back home. Even though it’s week four, each day feels like I am starting all over again. Today was the first day I woke up before 10:00 am, and I’m excited. I know that I have a long road ahead of me before I’m back on track, and at least the situation we are all living in is giving me a chance to practice. I don’t win everyday, but each day is a battle I learn from.
As a senior, I am angry and frustrated that our graduating class had to be during a pandemic. I know folks who lost job opportunities, community, and family members during a time where we are supposed to be celebrating. But, I am hopeful. I am hopeful of our generation to survive and take on this situation with courage. We are the generation that grew up watching our parents fight during the Recession. We are the generation that grew up learning what it meant to take responsibility. I’ve been watching a lot of School of Life videos on YouTube. If you have time, Jordan Peterson gives great words of wisdom that have helped motivate me.
“To stand up straight with your shoulders back is to accept the terrible responsibility of life, with eyes wide open. It means deciding to voluntarily transform the chaos of potential into the realities of habitable order” -Jordan Peterson
- Laic, Mental Health Peer
I feel uprooted. I feel like the rug has been pulled from under me. I feel like I should panic, but I feel like everyone needs to stop panicking. I feel sad, then I feel guilty because others have it worse. I feel scared, but I don’t want to acknowledge that fear. I can’t fall asleep at night, then I either sleep in until 2 pm or I wake up overwhelmed with my own thoughts. And emails.
[CLASS 1] ZOOM lecture now posted on gauchospace!
[CLASS 2] read, respond ASAP: difficulties with ZOOM…
[SA ANNOUNCEMENTS] COVID-19 Response
[CLASS 1] ZOOM link: updated
[CLASS 3] syllabus update: READ THOROUGHLY!!!
[Henry T. Yang] COVID-19 Update
There’s so much to do, but also nothing to do. I should do my class work, but why should I when the days feel like they’re blurring together? I’ll just do it tomorrow. Or the next day. I’ll just go on Twitter.
[Timeline] Coronavirus: Latest news and updates
[COLLEGE FRIEND] ur stupid if you leave ur house during a pandemic…
[VIRAL TWEET] this is a picture of my grocery store right now…
[FRIEND FROM HOME] everyone chill lol ur stupid if ur still panicking…
[CHRISSY TEIGAN] *animal crossing video*
Honestly though… I’m tired. I’m tired of ZOOM, of not seeing my friends, of not knowing how long this is going to last or what the future holds, of worrying about my basic needs, of being shamed every time I have to leave my house, of not being able to celebrate birthdays in person or go to events, of having no sense of stability or organization, and most of all, of worrying that this is what my post-grad life is going to be like. This is what my LIFE is going to be like. What am I going to do with my life?
Let’s slow down…
Take a breath….
And show ourselves some self-compassion.
Over the past month and a half, my anxiety has been at an all-time high. It’s been really comfortable for me to fall back into unhealthier coping techniques, like spending hours scrolling through social media, not taking care of my needs, or completely isolating myself. While it’s okay to indulge in those types of behaviors occasionally, it’s important to take care of ourselves and do what we can to navigate our anxiety in a healthy way, especially during this unusual time. Here’s what’s been helpful for me so far!
The main affirmation that I’ve been reminding myself is… it’s okay. Everything you’re feeling right now? It’s 100% okay. We as a society are experiencing a collective shock, and that can lead to feelings of fear, exhaustion, numbness, anger and irritability, lack of motivation, and more. It’s absolutely normal and healthy for us to experience a whirlwind of emotion, or to feel like we’re unable to process it all at once. (However, if you or someone you know is experiencing warning signs or thoughts of ending one’s life, please connect with CAPS or Student Mental Health Coordination Services, or call 911 in case of an emergency.)
Can I Be Kind to Myself? (Spoiler: Yes)
Try to acknowledge these feelings through the lens of an observer rather than a critic. For example, instead of judging yourself harshly with negative self-talk such as, “Why am I so unmotivated? I’m such a failure,” try the following:
If accessible, I highly recommend therapy to anyone and everyone. I started therapy about a year and a half ago, and I can honestly say it was one of the best decisions I could have made for myself. I didn’t realize how much processing I still needed to do to heal from my past traumas, and through therapy I’ve been able to become more aware of my own patterns and learn about ways to navigate my anxiety. It also feels really comforting to know that I’m able to consistently see someone who will listen to me and support me! To learn more about on-campus and off-campus therapy options, visit caps.sa.ucsb.edu.
Thought Diffusion: Visual Metaphors to Help with Unwanted Thoughts
For those looking for techniques to help diffuse negative thoughts as they arise, I highly suggest trying the following:
How Do I Find Resources???
Although it can feel like everything is on pause right now, most campus departments are still open! Here are a few options for those looking for some at-home self-care:
Remember, you are the master of your own mind. While there may be times where it feels like anxiety is uncontrollable, it is crucial to remember that we all have the ability to practice self-compassion and manage our thought patterns. You’re not alone in this! ☺
I hope that this blog post was helpful for y’all! Stay tuned for more blog posts by my lovely coworkers, and please follow @ucsbmentalhealthpeers for more mental health resources.
- Jasmine, Mental Health Peer
We warmly welcome you to our MHP newsletter which will consist of updates from Mental Health Peers on a variety of topics. Given the current state of the world, MHP's will be focusing on sharing their personal experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic. This may include day-to-day struggles, what helps MHP's cope, reminding students about resources still available on campus, and any other self-care tips! Transitioning to online classes and dealing with other domino effect of changes with the pandemic has impacted many students and their families in countless ways. While the current circumstances of the world have led us to close down some of our in-person services, we hope to connect with students through this relatable platform. We hope that you enjoy reading these blog posts as you get to know the MHP staff. One of our goals is to help students feel connected during this time of uncertainty and a lot of change. Thank you for reading!