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Guides & Tips

5 Tips to Ace Finals Week

Alexa Pellegrini December 12, 2017

The end of the semester is finally here, and most of us have only one thing on our minds: passing exams. With finals fast approaching, it’s safe to say that most of us are feeling stressed. Before you panic, take a deep breath and try these five tips for staying happy and healthy during finals week:

1. Stay hydrated  

Before you hit the books, refill your water bottle. Dehydration saps energy from your brain cells and negatively impacts your short- and long-term memory. A study conducted by the Institute of Psychiatry in London and the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge found that students who lost 1.1% of their body weight through dehydration suffered from impaired focus.

A PSA for caffeine addicts: binging on coffee might seem like an easy (and cheap) way to stay alert, but excess caffeine taxes your adrenals and causes more stress. Drink an 8 oz glass of water to stay on task.

2. Have healthy meals and snacks

The hectic pace of finals week makes it tempting to skip meals or ease stress with processed food, but a poor diet affects academic performance. Skipping breakfast is linked to lower grades, and starting the day hungry leaves you in a fog. Sharpen your memory by eating meals with plenty of fruits and vegetables, omega-3 fatty acids (think olive oil or salmon) and whole grains. The next time you go shopping, buy these superfoods to maximize your study sessions:

Dark chocolate: If you love sweets, eat this snack to bump your mental energy levels – caffeine and theobromine in dark chocolate are gentle stimulants linked to better brain function. As an added bonus, cacao is packed with antioxidants that fight free radicals and viruses.

Avocados: Turns out that avocados are more than just a hipster trend. Their high monounsaturated fat content boosts blood flow, which improves brain function. Feeling super stressed out? One avocado (with or without toast) may lower your blood pressure. 

Walnuts: Swapping pretzels and chips for nuts is a healthy choice with long-term benefits. It’s no coincidence that walnuts look like miniature brains – they’re chocked full of omega-3 fatty acids that lower anxiety while increasing learning capacity.

3. Exercise each day 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed, break up your studies or blow off steam with a half an hour of fitness. Exercise boosts dopamine, a neurotransmitter linked to mood, memory, and the production of brain cells. Getting fresh air is the easiest way to reduce your stress, stay calm, and re-energize your mind.

4. Get quality rest

Finals week is one of the most exhausting times of the year – from late-night cram sessions to insomnia from anxiety, it’s easy to lose sleep. Sleep deprivation impairs recall memory and lowers immunityso try to unwind before midnight. If you can’t catch a solid 8 hours each night, schedule a 30-minute nap into your day.

5. Make leisure time

Studying is important, but making time for fun can help your performance. Even 20 minutes of leisure time can help you unwind and refresh your brain. Try stress-reducing activities, like meditation, yoga, painting, and reading. Watch a funny clip on Youtube or enjoy an episode of your favorite TV show. You deserve it!

Finals week is overwhelming, but you can ease some of the pressure by taking care of your body and monitoring your stress. Set realistic expectations for yourself, make time to relax, and honor your basic needs. Your grades are important, but your health comes first.