A Spoonful of Sugar Helps the Finals Stress Go Down

Finals suck. It’s a sentiment that’s echoed by the overwhelming majority of the student, faculty, and community. From high-stakes exams and projects to the night-before packing rush, it’s hard to imagine a more stressful and demanding time of each term. It’s no surprise that, as the term closes, self-care habits often go out the window. As the week goes on, we hear more and more of: “yeah, I pulled an all-nighter last night,” and “oh, I didn’t have time to get breakfast this morning,” and “outside of my finals, I haven’t left my dorm in three days” casually dropped in conversation. And while this week may feel indomitable, to the point where our health plummets on our list of priorities, we must remember to care for ourselves. It is only through self-care, finding those small moments of rest and joy—not pushing sunrise cramming papers—that we will keep on keeping on this week.

So, we at The Phillipian have come up with a small, doable, hopefully fun (and no doubt completely un-self-aware) daily challenge to try out this upcoming week. Each day, we challenge you to do three things: something you should do, something you want to do, and something that will be good for you. In normal weeks, these practices are preventative measures to ensure our health and happiness. During finals week, they are to keep us afloat. Like a disgusting medicinal concoction you down when you have a cold, this challenge tries to “game” self-care during a week where that may be the last thing on anyone’s mind.

ONE: Do something you should do. In order words, “eat the frog,” and get your most tedious tasks out of the way first. Whether that be a practice quiz you’ve been putting off, a desk declutter that never seems pressing enough to do, or simply that mug you haven’t gotten around to washing in an embarrassingly long time, carve out a few spare moments in your day to do those things you’ve been putting off. Note: this should be different from something you “have” to do, but they can overlap. For instance, you might have to write that history paper, but you probably should outline before cramming the final draft into the early hours of the day. The core of this step is to make sure that beyond the very essentials, we take a few minutes each day to make our lives materially better, even if that means doing something we don’t really “feel like” doing.

TWO: Do something you want to do. Too often during finals, our lives become slogs of “have to”s and not enough “want to”s. It often feels as if once we’ve conquered one major, another emerges on the horizon. This step tries to assuage that, at times, overwhelming dread. Having something, however small, to look forward to each day can vastly improve finals week. Make an annoyingly good cup of tea, grab some ice-cream downtown during lunch, hog a Graves room and scream karaoke with friends. Grab candy from the ASC, watch a trashy teen drama with a friend, take time choosing on an outfit that makes you feel good, anything—just make sure it’s something you actually look forward to. Like a smattering of sunlight during a storm, it may not stay for long, and it’ll rain hard for the next few days, but you’ll feel all the better for having experienced it.

THREE: Do something that will be good for you. Often the hardest one, this step requires the most reflection, thought, and willpower, but, the results are often the most necessary. This means not only knowing you won’t have enough time to write that essay, but asking for an extension ahead of time, instead of miraculously hoping you’ll get it done somehow, and end up submitting a subpar product one minute before the deadline. It means putting your phone away before you get in bed so that you get a solid night’s sleep, rather than an hour of instant gratification and a boulder of a headache the next day. It means dragging yourself out of bed for breakfast before that test, and it means leaving a rowdy common room to get some rest before you exhaust yourself. Sometimes, it means taking the 3% late penalty but submitting a better result. This step might not always look how we want it to, and it might take a whole lot of energy you might not have, but it’s almost a guarantee: you will feel better after.

It’s going to be a hard week, so before we embark on those last five days before Spring break, we’ll leave you with this: you will get through this, you will find those small moments of joy that make your day, and when the clock rolls around to 3 p.m. on Friday, you can heave a long sigh of relief. For now—love yourself, love those around you, and take a deep breath. You’ve got this.