The three weeks between Thanksgiving break and winter break are some of the hardest you’ll experience every year. You’ve been given a taste of freedom and relaxation over Thanksgiving break, but before you can truly find peace, you have to go through finals.
Honestly, it’s pretty cruel. You want nothing more than to sleep in and drink hot chocolate while watching those cheesy Hallmark Christmas movies, but instead you’re sitting there, trying to figure out how to finish three projects you haven’t started, study for two exams, finish a p-set and eat at least two meals a day. If there is one comfort however, it is knowing that everyone here is just as miserable as you are. To help get you through, here are some genuine tips for surviving these next three weeks.
1. Sleep, but don’t oversleep. When you start prioritizing getting a good night sleep, the rigorous daily schedule you have will become a lot more manageable. I know everyone has told you this, but it’s genuinely true. This doesn’t mean that you should start sleeping 12 hours every night, because that will be just as unhelpful as not sleeping. Try to aim somewhere between six and nine hours every night.
If you struggle getting to bed on time, try avoiding blue light that is emitted from electronic screens (you can set a night shade on your iPhone for a certain period of time everyday), try to give yourself 15 minutes to unwind before going to sleep, drink a hot decaffeinated beverage of your choice, or take a hot shower. But do not do work in bed, it’ll stress you out more once it comes time to sleep. Trust me on this one.
2. Have some fun. Locking yourself in the library for 12 hours straight is not the move. I’ve done it, and it didn’t help at all. You need to allow yourself breaks and schedule fun things to do in between assignments and classes, because afterward, you will be much more ready to tackle that project or those papers. When you put yourself in that position of “I am going to sit here all day and get this done,” you’re only creating a cycle of guilt and self-punishment that will not fuel your drive to do good work. Try to keep these fun activities short and manageable – grab lunch with a good friend, read a short story, go to the Cantor for an hour, walk the Dish, call your mom, try a face mask, etc. Choose activities that have an easy ending that won’t lead to procrastination so that it stays healthy behavior.
3. Create a schedule. Though it appears overwhelming at first, it helps keep you accountable. It’s easy to spiral when you’re thinking about all the things you have to do at once, but if you sit down, write a list of it all early on, and schedule it out in realistic amounts, it’ll all seem possible. This means give yourself time for sleep, for meals, for small amounts of procrastination. Overestimate how long it will take you to finish something, to prevent any possible cramming when things go off schedule, because they will at some point. It’s really just about breaking these next few weeks into manageable tasks, because it is so much harder to get started on something when it feels like a behemoth of a challenge.
4. Find three good study spots and circulate between them. A change in environment every so often will invigorate you and keep you inspired. Have each one be different, so that it truly is a change in environment when you move. Find somewhere outside and relaxing, somewhere inside and full of life, somewhere serious and clean. If you find yourself able to think there, then it works, whether that’s on-campus or off-campus. Having good study spaces will make all the difference when you feel that mental block preventing you from accomplishing anything, but don’t spend too much time focusing on the specifics of your study spot.
5. Cry. Seriously. If you bottle up your frustration or anger or anxiety, it will just get worse and will make everything harder as the quarter progresses. If you feel like you need to cry or yell or vent, do it. You’ll feel good after it, your mind will clear, and you’ll be in a much better mindset to get back to work than if you were fighting back tears for hours while trying to figure out your Psych project. To be honest, everyone does it, and this is one of those few cases where you should too.
I know most of these sound pretty basic and obvious, but they do genuinely help when you get to the stress zone that is these next few weeks. It’s all about taking care of yourself and recognizing your limitations. I hope that implementing a few of these in your next few weeks will help reduce the trauma of the end of the quarter rush.
Contact Arianna Lombard at ariannal ‘at’ stanford.edu.