Illustration: Christine Wang.
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To get to the holidays, you have to pass your exams first

During the holiday season you might be stressed out about what to buy your friends, how to fit in all of your family visits, or dealing with that one annoyingly sexist uncle at a dinner, but before you even get there you have to pass your finals! When you’re under a lot of pressure to succeed, this can be easier said than done. So in the season’s spirit of giving, Fulcrum contributors weigh in on how to come out of your exams alive and on top.

Focus on today

As a current grad student who survived through four tough undergrad years, finishing off with a 3.78 GPA, I know a thing or two about preparing for finals. First of all, mark your exam dates on your calendar and plan in advance what you’re going to study each day. After planning it out, focus on today and don’t worry about what you need to do tomorrow. Ask yourself how you can have a successful day and focus on what needs to be done at present. When you look back, you’ll find that you had a successful week.

Next, be sure to start studying two weeks before the exam. This really helped me during my undergrad and although I didn’t do it for all of my exams, I did so much better on exams where I followed this rule. It will significantly decrease your anxiety levels as the final date approaches.

Finally, please avoid all-nighters at all costs, as sleep plays a major role in memory retention. Research has shown that memory consolidation, the process of converting short-term memory into long-term memory so we can recall it later, happens mostly when we are sleeping. When you miss out on sleep, you’re less likely to remember what you studied.

—Reem El Attar, Fulcrum Contributor.

Put your mental and physical wellbeing first

When the semester starts to narrow down, we tend to get stressed and think that things are not going to go well. But it’s actually scientifically proven that the state of our mentality determines the result of our situation. So, for instance, if we think we’re going to do well on an exam, then chances are, we will. If you need a little extra help getting to that positive physical and mental state, these tips are for you.

First of all, it is important that we get our blood and oxygen flowing after long periods of studying. Trying a few yoga poses such as Downward Dog, Child’s Pose, and Savasana can help with feelings of stress and anxiety, as long as you remember to breathe.

When working through this stressful period, it should go without saying that it’s also important for us to check in with our mental wellbeing. Soaking in a warm bath, or walking outside (even just for 10 minutes), can help your brain relax and recharge after long study sessions.

If your brain is on information overload, retreat to a colouring book. Yes, a colouring book. Invest in a colouring book and lose yourself in the therapeutic world of colour and endless patterns. You’ll be amazed by the colouring skills that you didn’t think you had, and build up confidence to tackle the next task.

—Perushka Gopalkista, Staff Contributor.

Ask for help when you need it

Even if you don’t already struggle with mental illness, adding a massive workload to your everyday routine can feel like a huge weight. But the great thing is, with the support of those around you, that weight can feel a whole lot lighter.

If you need some space, quiet time for a nap, or even food cooked or take out picked up for you, ask your friends, significant other, co-workers, or anyone else willing to extend a helping hand. It’s so common for us to retreat into our own shell when we experience personal hardship, but the ironic thing is that as soon as you let someone know you’re having a hard day they will more than likely offer to help—or at least lend a sympathetic ear.

The same thing goes with academic struggles. Don’t be afraid to go see your prof and tell them that you aren’t understanding the assigned material. They know their students are juggling a million things, so they won’t judge you or think you aren’t intelligent—they’ll be happy to help you.

So while this might not be a study strategy, this will help immensely with preparing a healthy mental state to finish those final exams and assignments. After all, we’re all going through the same struggles, just in different ways. If you reach out for help during the exam season, you’ll probably be met with warmth, understanding, and the support you need to succeed.

—Savannah Awde, Features Editor.