Coping with Periods of High Stress: Lessons Learned from College Finals Week
As the spring semester starts to wrap up, the majority of my energy is going towards keeping my stress at a manageable level. I keep catching myself thinking “you’ve only got like 2 years of this left” but the reality is real life has ‘finals weeks’ too.
They may not involve flashcards or textbooks, but the universe always seems to have an uncanny way of stacking life’s most high stress events into a short period of time. Because, of course, your major work deadline, the dog getting sick, and needing to move apartments will inevitably happen in the same week.
But the universe never throws you anything you aren’t capable of handling.
One of the most important things I’ll come out of college with is the knowledge and skill set to handle these periods of high stress. Being prepared, confident in yourself, and having the right mindset is essential to coping with life’s ‘finals weeks’.
Here are some of the coping skills I use:
1) Ground yourself
If you don’t take anything else away from this post, at least go away with this. Before you lose yourself entirely in the stress take a moment to step away and look at your situation critically. And also take this as a chance to restore your self-confidence. Breathe and reconnect.
Whenever you feel overwhelmed, try to return back to this mental place
2) Make a game plan that focuses on where you can be most productive
The reality is, you can’t do everything. You have to be realistic with the expectations you set for yourself. What I do is to make a list of what I would do if I could do everything and then from there I prioritize. For finals, I try to focus on the materials where I’m the weakest. I can be the most productive there because I can make the greatest improvements.
3) Prioritize your health — physical and mental
Stress can be really damaging to your body. And there is no situation important enough to worth damaging your own health over (I have learned this the hard way). In order to make it through and to continue to perform well, you have to nourish yourself and stay in tune with your needs. Eat balanced meals, get sleep, and give yourself permission to mentally break away.
4) Get out of the house
When I’m stressed, I tend to crawl into ‘my cave’. I’ll sit in the same spot on my laptop all day, for multiple days getting work done. This begins to hurt my productivity and it also makes the stress seem all that more consuming. Go to a coffee shop to study, go run a few errands, or even just go take the trash out. Just get up, move around, and regain some perspective.
5) Remember this is only temporary
Know that whatever is going on, however monumental it feels at this moment, it will pass. Life will go back to being stable. Let this knowledge fuel you to push just a little bit harder, but also to keep perspective on reality. Know that this period of stress is just a small segment of your timeline.
As I touched on a little in my last post, it can be hard sometimes to keep perspective on what we’re supposed to be gaining from our college courses. I think learning how to cope with stress is an extremely vital skill, and, theoretically, finals week is a fairly safe environment to practice those really necessary life skills.
To all my lovely college readers, you will make it through to summer! And to everyone else, who’s coming to this at a different point in their life, remember how many other stressful times you’ve made it through and believe in yourself that you have the skills to make it through the (inevitable) next.
We don’t have control over a lot of things in life that contribute to stress, but we do have control over how we perceive and handle those situations.
How do you deal with life’s ‘finals weeks’? What other real world lessons did you learn in college?