Boru: Grappling with finals while dealing with life

Think of the bigger picture: Why being in school matters.

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Luul Boru

There is this notion in some minority cultures that the longer one spends time in front of a computer, it can be assumed that this person is just wasting time and avoiding family and obligations. We are then asked, “How long are you gonna be sitting on that thing?” But who said that student life is all paradise and sunshine? Semester after semester, we have to identify our duties and somehow pack them in an already busy schedule. We wear several hats a day: We are students, workers, parents, teachers, daughters and sons.

We put on the appropriate hat for every situation. I believe in human’s adaptability to change, and believe it is why we can take on multiple of our identities within the same hour if need be. Some of us are juggling family obligations, work and school commitments. Some are even taking care of children and studying at the same time. Good for you. But sometimes our worries tune out others, and dealing with one’s obligations and stress drains all the energy we have by the end of the day.

Finals week is quickly approaching, and we need to grind through it in order to get those grades we want. I know it is easier said than done, considering how life can get in the way. I can always tell I am stressed when I get a tension headache from overthinking about what is due for classes and how long each item will take me to finish. On top of that, thinking about finals makes my headache even worse because of the fear of failure, which then prevents me from studying effectively. It is a vicious cycle. My thoughts are the catalyst of my anxiety and stress.

For me, the cure for these consuming thoughts is positive thinking. Knowing the why for everything we do is crucial. There has to be a meaning behind our work and, in our case as students, we want to graduate having matured mentally and consumed rich knowledge with good grades to match. So, let us start by addressing the big elephant in the room. Stress can physically manifest itself, through headaches, chest pain, sleeping problems, etc. And sometimes we need help managing that stress. It is okay to feel anxious and to worry; they are human emotions. We feel things that we sometimes cannot just turn off. How we respond to it, however, is what makes us resilient.

The first step I recommend you take is to think positively, as I mentioned above. It takes only a few seconds to think to yourself, “I got this. I am going to do the quicker and easier assignments first,” and then delve right into the work. We owe it to ourselves to do what we promised to do. Remember that if it does not get done, it often leads to disappointment.

We also owe ourselves breaks in between. The Pomodoro Technique, a highly recommended time-management method, suggests working for 25 minutes, and then taking a break for five minutes. Following four of these cycles, you take a longer break, from 15-30 minutes. During those breaks, I recommend doing a little stretching, or even taking a moment of silence to collect your thoughts and meditate to unite your body and mind. A break to get something sweet from the fridge, warm green tea, a cup of coffee, to run up or down the stairs to annoy your siblings, or joke around with your roommates.

There are endless things that can be done during that five minute break. If you are still feeling stressed, however, some additional tips and tricks include: describing three things you see at the moment to ground you, standing (or sitting) up straight to decrease stress hormones, and clenching and unclenching your right fist to activate the left side of your brain. If these do not work for you, invent a stress relief strategy and a break time activity that will rejuvenate you. The University of Minnesota also provides de-stress appointments that are held via Zoom for students. I highly recommend it.

It is okay to feel anxious. I want to repeat that because it is easy to think that there is something wrong with us if we struggle while our peers succeed. It is a human thing to worry. But do not just let it sit there: Do something about it. You are going to ace your finals because you are in school to accomplish your goals and plans. The result of what you do now will be very rewarding. Being able to rest after a very long and productive day will be so fulfilling. So let us do the work now and rest later.