Exam week is tough. There’s no denying it. So many assignments are due at once. Test-taking anxiety goes through the roof. A normally small stressor can feel like DEFCON 5. None of this is good for your mental health and it won’t help you tackle the exams you face. Both your well-being and your grades rely on your ability to take care of yourself.
Here are some tips to help you manage your mental health during these stressful times:
1. Don’t Study Alone
It can feel very isolating to study by yourself. Worse, if you are struggling, there’s nobody there to encourage you or help you master the information. Instead, consider hooking up with a study group. Your peers can help you stay on track and keep you motivated.
What if there’s no study group available? Just invite a friend over! Sometimes it helps to simply have a friend nearby who is sharing the same experience.
2. Schedule Sleep but Don’t Stress Over It
Sleep is key to mental health at any time. Now it’s even more so. Sleep deprivation can impact mood, cognition, memory and processing speed. When you plan your day, plan for adequate sleep.
At the same time, be realistic. The truth is that you’re going to be very busy. You may not get your ideal amount of sleep. That’s okay. You’ll be fine. The last thing you need to do is compound your lack of sleep with stress and worry about it.
You can maximize your sleep benefits by:
- Sleeping in a cool dark room
- Using a comfortable pillow and clean sheets
- Turning off all electronics one hour before going to sleep
3. Self Care Improves Productivity
You may feel as if you don’t have time to take care of yourself. In reality, engaging in a bit of common-sense self-care can pay off in better productivity. Try a few of these steps:
- Meditate even for a short period of time
- Take a walk
- Get in a short workout
- Eat food that is good for you
- Play with a pet
None of these things is too complex or time-consuming, but they can make a real difference in your outlook and mood.
4. Seek Out Positive Affirmations
You may feel as if you are surrounded by impatient short-tempered people. That’s in addition to any negative feelings that are causing you to struggle. That negative vibe can get you down. So, make a dedicated effort to find some positive affirmations.
Do you have a favorite athlete, author or performer? Find an inspirational quote from them and display it near your workstation. Hang a motivational poster, even if it seems corny. Make an upbeat playlist. Remember that what you invite into your life and space can really have an impact.
5. Give Yourself Small Celebrations
Many students plan to end exam week with some sort of big celebration. That seems like a long time to wait. You’re accomplishing so many things right now. Each exam you muddle through is worthy of acknowledgment and so are many of your other small victories.
Keep yourself motivated by giving yourself small rewards as you check off various tasks. These can be quite simple. Treat yourself to a special coffee, for example, or buy an article of clothing that’s been speaking to you for a while.
6. Talk to Someone
Chances are, you have friends or family members who are going through something similar right now. Reach out to them. Don’t stay with your stress and anxiety. Don’t assume that they are too busy to connect.
They’ll be happy that you reached out and will also appreciate having someone to talk to. This is a time when mutual support is so important.
7. Don’t Glorify Overworking Yourself
“I only slept 2 hours last night.” “It was 10 at night before I realized I hadn’t eaten yet.” Most of us have heard or said similar things, treating working ourselves to exhaustion or ignoring our own basic needs as a badge of honor.
Don’t participate in normalizing lack of self-care and overworking oneself. This is a pervasive and unhealthy mindset that discourages people from living a balanced life and enjoying necessary rest.
You may not be able to engage in the self-care you normally do; however, you can use language that encourages that in yourself and others.
8. Find Something Fun to D0
Don’t let guilt or the pressure to be relentlessly productive stop you from enjoying yourself. Now more than ever, you should be prioritizing fun. Yes, studying takes precedence; however, you can still block out time to play a few video games, enjoy a game of disc golf or watch a movie. You should do these things without an ounce of guilt.
Think of it this way – you aren’t shrugging off responsibility, you are giving yourself a well-deserved break so that you don’t face burnout. Encourage your friends to do the same. Spending 30 minutes battling friends in Mario Kart won’t cause you to fail and it could give you the mental reset you need to make studying more effective.
9. Write Lists
Fear that you will forget something or otherwise drop the ball can really stir up feelings of anxiety. You can avoid this by writing lists to assure that you don’t miss anything important. There are even apps that will send you reminders based on the items you’ve added.
Because you are under more stress than usual, it may be helpful to include things on your lists that you normally would not. This will protect you from stress-related forgetfulness – upset that comes with realizing you missed something really important.
10. Get Help if You Need It
Even after you put all of these tips into action, you may feel overwhelmed, sad or anxious. If you are truly struggling with your feelings or having dark thoughts, help is available.
You don’t have to navigate this on your own. There’s no shame in seeking out support through mental health services. There’s an excellent chance that you will find that help on campus through Student Support Services. You can also contact your physician for a referral. Remember that you deserve support during this time.
Take a deep breath. You really got this! It’s certainly a challenging time, but you have the knowledge and study skills you need. Implementing a few of these tips can help you care for your mental health.