Opinion | Leave time for yourself during finals preparation


The Daily Illini Photo File

Students study for finals on the first floor of Grainger Library on May 6, 2019. Columnist Chiara Awatramani believes to decrease stress for finals students should take a break from studying.

By Chiara Awatramani, Columnist

With finals approaching, stress and anxiety levels are on the rise. Quizlets, flashcards, study groups and practice exams take over our minds, day after day. Eat. Sleep. Study. Repeat. As students, it doesn’t seem as though we have a choice to partake in this lifeless ritual. 

But we do — by learning how to
manage time effectively, focus and relax in a manner that decreases stress, students can break out of the robotic cycle. A student’s life shouldn’t consist only of studying and engaging in the bare necessities of survival. We can perform better academically while enjoying our lives. 

Studies show stress negatively impacts exam performance. This is because prolonged periods of stress and high levels of cortisol lead to a constant state of arousal and alertness. As the body is not allowed to relax, individuals experience difficulty sleeping. In turn, lack of sleep hinders the consolidation of memories in the brain, leading to worse recollections of the studied material and worse results on exams. 

Time management is a useful tool to help mitigate stress as it allows students to plan out their discrete blocks of studying and free time. In this way, a student concentrates on work for the scheduled time, then completely liberates themselves from the thought of school during their allotted free time — alleviating stress. 

Many students fall into the trap of getting distracted during their studies due to deficits in time management skills. Distractions, such as a phone, are more enticing to a student who lacks a truly stress-free break throughout the day.

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For example, when a student thinks they can study for six hours on one topic, they might go on their phones
intermittently for five minutes at a time throughout these hours. Not only does this prevent studying from being
completed efficiently, but it also prevents the student from feeling relaxed. They sit at their desk trying to focus entirely on school radiating in their mind — not a pleasurable experience. 

This blends into why finding stress-relieving activities leads to better performance on exams and overall health. Activities related to relieving stress differ among individuals but can include exercising, reading, meditating, walking and many more. From finding these activities, academic thoughts drift forward into a student’s mind, stress levels decrease and exam performances increase.

So instead of getting caught up in the exhausting cycle of finals-induced stress, spend time on scheduling. Learn how to prevent distractions while studying and find activities that relieve stress for you. Your grades and brain will thank you.

Chiara is a sophomore in LAS.

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