Hannah's Finals Survival Guide

Posted on November 28,2012 by hmonkmspp

My grandma always told me, "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." It is for this exact reason that I have not blogged in a while. The prospect of leaving my warm and cozy house in upstate NY with my cat and family to come back to Boston with finals just around the corner hasn't had me in the best of moods this past week.

All along, MSPP has stressed "self care." That's all we hear. So far this semester, a lot of my peers and I have laughed at this thought. "Self care? Who has time for that?"

As we are now face-to-face with finals, the stress is piling up, and I'm starting to realize that maybe the administration and faculty was right. It's so hard to put things into perspective and prioritize yourself over your schoolwork, but it's so crucial to surviving grad school. I know many of you reading this that are still in school are probably heading into finals periods yourselves, so I thought I would share with you (as well as the few members of my cohort that read this- love you guys!), my top-ten self-care tips for finals.

How to Maintain Your Sanity While Learning How to Help Others Regain Theirs: Hannah's brief guide to surviving the stress of finals in the field of psychology

  1. Exercise. I really think we need to stop prescribing SSRIs, and start giving out gym recommendations. I was really overwhelmed last night, and all I wanted to do was sleep or cry. My boyfriend handed me my sneakers and said, "no, you need to go to the gym." I resented him the entire way there, until I got on the elliptical and sweat out all my stress. At the end of 4.5 miles, I felt almost completely better. I'm convinced we need to put treadmills in therapy practices. They might be just as helpful for depressed patients as talk therapy.

    Ready to run a Turkey Trot at home!
  2. Go outside. During finals time, we spend a lot of time in classrooms and libraries and in our rooms, studying like crazy. Having the sun go down at 4:00pm is bad enough, and our busy days cramming inside only make it worse. I sat outside tonight on my back porch in the cold and watched the airplanes descend toward the airport. It was so calming.
  3. Eat healthily. Everyone's eating habits are affected differently by stress. Some binge on candy and salt, and others stop eating and only drink coffee and chew tums. Messing with your diet only messes with your concentration, so go for the salad!

    Definitely do NOT bake a pie, because you might eat the whole thing yourself...
  4. Breathe. On our second day of orientation, Dr. Fran Mervyn told us that a special self-care technique was to take deep breaths and swish your arms around over your head. She told us that if you can't find a place to breathe, sit in a bathroom stall and take a few deep breaths. We all had a few laughs about this, and continue to bring up bathroom breathing any time someone brings up self care. I may not like to breathe in the bathroom, but doing it in a nice, quiet space while closing your eyes really does help.
  5. Write about it. I know that when you have a ton of papers ahead of you, writing seems like the last thing you want to do. Just trust me. Blog about it, write yourself a letter, write a friend a letter, it doesn't matter. Just zone out and let yourself get lost in the process of emptying your stress onto a piece of paper or a computer screen. Then lock it away there.
  6. Hang upside down for a while. Try some inversion yoga poses. I particularly like forearm stands against the wall. It re-centers you and gives you a new perspective on things.

    My housemate and me on Halloween last year
  7. Take a hot shower. Rinse off your negative energy and practice good hygiene at the same time! I know it may be tempting to go into a writing frenzy and not change your clothes or bathe or leave your room, but you owe it to yourself, and your roommates.
  8. Phone a friend. Call someone you haven't spoken to in a while, and talk about anything else except school. Sometimes it is really nice to hear a voice that isn't laden with stress, or someone that doesn't know that you feel like a ticking time bomb.
  9. Get enough sleep! This should be number one on the list, but I didn't get to it until now, and it's too much work to change a numbered list, so here it stays. If you don't sleep, you aren't going to be productive anyway. If you feel like you can't get your work done without pulling all-nighters, ask your professor for an extension. They will understand, especially if they are in this field. No one wants a psychological mess/zombie that turns in mediocre work. Close the laptop and close your eyes. Get some rest!
  10. If all else fails, watch cat videos on Youtube. They have saved my sanity many an exam period. This one is a particular favorite of mine: Kitty with a Watermelon Addiction

Good luck, everyone! We are going to get through this, and we are going to be stronger by the end of it! You're a champion.