How to Take Care of Yourself During Finals Week

By Hannah Crownover

I know, I don’t want to admit it either, but finals are coming.

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For most students, this is a period of time filled with stress eating, hyper-caffeination, and little to no sleep. I am here to give light to these dark days of the semester and help you stay healthy and motivated to finish out the semester strong

Nix the Junk

Alright, first things first, put down the hot Cheetos. When your body is put under stress, it tends to crave foods high in both fat and sugar, but these foods will only slow your digestion and exacerbate your feelings of stress and fatigue. In other words, JUNK FOOD WON’T HELP YOU! If you want to stay full and focused, pack some healthy snacks filled with protein and healthy unsaturated fats to take with you wherever you go to study. These could be foods like hardboiled eggs, full-fat yogurt, veggies and hummus, fruit + your choice of nut butter, trail mixes loaded with nuts and seeds (not just M&M’s), or rice cakes with smashed avocado. Bonus: *dark chocolate helps improve cognitive function and memory, so now you have an excuse to eat some! But don’t forget to continue eating regular meals (especially breakfast). Trust me, you have time to take 20 minutes to sit down and eat a healthy meal, and maybe chat with a friend or two to help give your mind a break.

Your Body is Not a Starbucks Wasteland (Believe It or Not)

Next, stop gulping down coffee like its water. Instead, start gulping down water like it’s water! 😉Hydration is key to staying focused and avoiding issues such as headaches, fatigue, and sleep problems. Your brain does not have any way to store water itself, so that’s why it’s one of the first parts of your body affected when you are dehydrated*. Bring a reusable water bottle with you in your backpack and make sure that you are filling it up at least 2–3x a day to keep yourself hydrated. If you choose to drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages/foods, make sure to stop drinking or eating them about 6 hours before you go to bed, which leads me into my next point…

Get Your Zzzzzzzz’s

Failing to get adequate sleep will have you looking and feeling like:

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As college students, we tend to undervalue the importance of sleep. Phrases like “I’ve been pulling all-nighters since freshmen year, I’m fine” or “I’ll catch up on sleep over winter break” are common, but making excuses to dismiss your sleep can often do more harm than good. The REM stage of sleep (aka deep sleep) is a time for our brains to solidify our memories of what we have studied and learned over the course of the day. This stage occurs in the later periods of sleep, so to maximize its benefits make sure that you are getting AT LEAST 6 hours of sleep (8 hours is better though).

Make sure to give your brain a break and scheduletime for sleeping into your day. Naps are good too — but try not to make them longer than 30 minutes, otherwise you may have trouble falling asleep later. It may even help to do 5–10 minutes of meditation before you go to bed, just to clear your head (especially if you’re like me and can’t stop thinking about all the due dates that loom ahead). Try some mobile apps like Calm or Headspace, or check out this meditation guide here: Make sure to eliminate all distractions (aka your phone, tablet, laptop etc.) from your sleeping space, as the light from electronics hurts our natural sleep processes.

Good luck on finals, but most importantly: take care of yourselves MU!

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*Brain Exam Food Handout from Michael DiBiasi MS, RD

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