Here we are, the week after Thanksgiving,
and the holiday season is upon us. The leaves are falling, the shops are full, and people are gearing up for their wintertime celebrations. Some would even say it’s the most wonderful time of the year, but for college students, this time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the most stressful time of the semester.
I’m a senior now, so this is my last time experiencing the hectic few weeks at the end of the year, but it still feels like I’m a soldier about to head into war with my finals and papers. As the days shorten, I’ll spend precious hours of sunlight studying, writing, and trying to meet every deadline, even if it means basically spending the night in the library.
This also means that I’ve been around the block a time or two, and have hopefully learned a few things along the way that you might find helpful in this “happiest season of all.”
Here are some things I’ve learned to do when you have 5 finals, 4 papers, 3 projects, and a partridge in a pear tree.
Give yourself small goals
One aspect of finals season that is the hardest for me is the overwhelming weight of everything that has to get done. I wake up knowing that I have to get so much done, but I don’t even know where to start.
Last fall, I had a 15-page research paper to write, and it was so daunting that I kept putting it off. I knew I had to get started though, or else I’d fail the class, so the week before it was due, I outlined and split it up into three parts, and each day, I would write 5 papes- a completely manageable goal.
This allowed me to take off the weight of the entire paper and put on a smaller task that I knew I could handle.
And when I finished my five pages for the day, I let myself not do anything else. I could keep going if I wanted to, but I gave myself the freedom to stop because I had completed my goal for the day.
Make time for fun activities
Some of my roommates are schedulers, they have every hour of their day planned out with exactly what they’ll do and when they’ll do it. I am not like this at all. Sometimes I write down a To-Do list for the day, but I’m not much of a planner.
Either way, if you’re a planner or not, I’ve found it’s so important to have something to look forward to. You need a light at the end of a tunnel.
The campus ministry that I’m involved in, Reformed University Fellowship, has the tradition of holding a Christmas service in the chapel on campus. And it always happens in the middle of finals.
But even if I work all day, I always stop and go to this Christmas service. Because my friends are there, it’s a tradition that’s important to me, and it gives me a break from thinking about classes. Activities like this are necessary, refreshing moments that are vital to your sanity.
It doesn’t have to be this big of an event though, it could also be a game night with your friends or trying out ice skating, even if you know you’ll be terrible at it. You just need to be able to look up from your books and laptop and see something that you want to do, not what you have to do.
Trust me, this one is a lifesaver.
I have no doubt that you are working as hard as you can. There is an immense amount of pressure on college students to perform at their best all the time. We are expected to juggle the expectations and assignments of several classes without dropping a single ball.
Let me tell you now if you haven’t already found out: this is not possible.
It’s unhealthy and unsustainable to think that you can burn the candle at both ends without any repercussions. In high school, I fell into this cycle where I would go to school, attend meetings, go to band rehearsal, go home and take a nap from exhaustion, and stay up late to do homework, then wake up tired and go to school again.
I was constantly tired and never at my best. Thankfully, I learned this lesson early and didn’t let myself sacrifice sleep in college.
But we still hear this all the time, “I only got 4 hours of sleep last night.” “Yeah, I only got 3 hours of sleep, I’ve had 5 cups of coffee today.”
When people brag about how little they prioritize sleep, all I hear is “I neglect my body.” “Yeah, I neglect it more than you and don’t meet its needs.”
Our bodies and minds are what has brought us this far in life, why in the world would we punish them when we need them to carry us through another tough season.
You need to sleep, and you need to take care of your body. It is so easy to skip meals when you’re studying all day, but you are really just harming yourself in the long run because you’re disabling your body from performing well.
Clearly, I feel strongly about this one, and if you want to read more, here’s why you need to get more sleep.
You can do this!
I’m right there with you drowning in assignments, let’s get through these terrible weeks together, taking care of ourselves in the process.
Be kind to yourself and others, you got this!