Breathe, Scream, Ice Cream: Navigating Stress During Finals

Let’s be honest—your midterms have overstayed their welcome, your fuse is running short, and no matter how much food you ate over Thanksgiving, you still can’t help but think about your schedule, your homework, and most of all, your finals. My first word of advice, however, is not to stress. (I know, it’s much easier said than done.) But hopefully these tips will help you realize that know that it’s not only okay to be stressed, but also to let yourself mitigate that stress every once in a while.  

  1.     Breathe

Before anything—before opening up that textbook you despise, before starting the thesis of a research paper whose topic you still might know absolutely nothing about—breathe. According to an article in The New York Times titled “Breathe. Exhale. Repeat: The Benefits of Controlled Breathing”, mindful breath is an important function in adjusting the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system and ultimately reaching the feeling of a calm state. The article suggests taking slow steady breaths, counting up to five on the inhale, pausing, and then counting down from five on the exhale. This applies anywhere— when you’re lying down or at your desk, catch yourself when your mind is at a stressful place and take the time to regroup, pause, and breathe.

  1.     Scream

For those of you who feel the weight of finals like nerve-wrecked animals jumping inside of your body, admittedly it’s scary, but accept it. I found that some of the best ways to cope with stress is to acknowledge it and embrace it to its full capacity. Meaning, do what it has wanted you to do this whole time you’ve been trying to memorize definition after definition: SCREAM. Do it. Maybe in your room or a basement, bring a friend or even your study group and let it all out—scream as loud as you can for five seconds, then repeat this three times. I’m not kidding, it works. It feels amazing— it’s all of your anxiety and stress over finals and even just life, verbalized in its natural manic state. It’s a cathartic practice that may sound weird and may feel weird, but trust me on this one.  


GIF courtesy of Tumblr.

  1.     Ice Cream

Treat yourself. You deserve it. Finding motivations to do work will end in a more rewarding experience because every step feels like it’s been earned. Whether that means after every page you reach for another bite of cake, or after finishing that whole paper you go out and get some ice cream (two scoops with sprinkles! Do it!), you need to be nice to yourself and give your body what it wants. If dessert isn’t your motivator, then find what is. Maybe you just need to hang out with some friends, maybe you need to take a nap (assess how many hours of sleep you got the last night, and if the answer is anything less than five… you probably should take a nap)…

Work is temporary, life is permanent, so while it is important to try your best, don’t forget there are ways you can approach finals without ending up as a puddle of brains on the floor (which, not to mention, someone could slip on; thus creating a stress chain effect—the last thing we all need).


GIF courtesy of Tumblr.

Allison Yeh is a sophomore at Barnard and Lead Features Editor for Barnard Bite.


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