Everywhere you look, students are meeting to plan final presentations for CE, plopping down at tables on the fourth floor of the library to prepare for a long night of studying, and writing papers upon papers upon papers. Finals are just around the corner, and their painful presence pushes too many of us to pull all-nighters, skip going to the gym and eat junk food when we should be doing just the opposite.
Attending Father Cregan’s yoga class has reminded me how beneficial exercise is for both your mind and body. In between countless warrior-one poses and downward-facing dogs, I realized how cathartic yoga can be for someone who is experiencing too much stress in her life. In the middle of one of my most hectic weeks, I needed a stress-reducing activity and could not believe how much more calm and relaxed I felt after his hour-long class came to a close.
Although I used to tell myself I was being more productive by skipping the gym and staying in my room to work on countless end-of-semester assignments, I have recently realized how much of this time is devoted to empty procrastination. Because I am too tired to come up with any truly thoughtful points to bolster the arguments in my essays, I found myself spending the majority of my time looking at pictures of friends on Facebook or scanning my Tumblr page for funny YouTube videos.
After attending this yoga class, I found that because I allowed my mind to take a necessary break, I was able to focus more than I had all week. Working out is a gift to your body. There is no greater feeling than the one that envelopes you when you complete a good workout. Your muscles are almost singing with joy as they thank you for the time you devoted to their rejuvenation and renewal. This finals season, take a break your body will thank you for and make a concrete workout schedule. Set aside hours around your study schedule to go to the gym—and write them down in your planner so that you not only remember to go but also regard these times almost like appointments with yourself. Just as you will trudge all the way to the fourth floor of Tolentine for a meeting for a group project, you will find it hard to break a workout appointment once it is penciled into your planner.
Although I have found myself staying up late to finish piles of work and snacking to keep myself awake into the wee hours of the night, junk food is not the answer to our problems. It will not only lead to high blood pressure and heart disease later in life, but it is also not very helpful in keeping you awake. I know the occasional late-night trip to Connelly can seem too good to pass up. In reality, however, you are not only wasting time by walking to Connelly when you should be studying but you are also filling up on poor food choices that you’ll soon regret because swimsuit season is just around the corner.
Another problem some people face during this hectic time is not eating enough. Even though you may be on a roll with one of your final projects, and sitting in the library for the next three hours may help you finally finish faster, eating three balanced meals will help you even more. Make sure to take the time to grab lunch and dinner when your body tells you it’s hungry because running on empty will be counterproductive to your plans as you start falling asleep at your computer.
During finals season, it is also extremely popular to run down to Holy Grounds and grab another coffee or Monster to keep you awake throughout the night. Although this may work for some people, there is a reason you have started drifting to sleep in the middle of the library—your mind is telling you it needs some shuteye to be able to function tomorrow as it is meant to. Instead of staying up all night to get your work done at a mediocre level because your brain is slowly but surely shutting off, you can gain more by going to bed early and waking up early in the morning. This may be a pipe dream, but I find I am able to write better and think more clearly with the sunlight of the morning streaming through my windows. After allowing my body the rest it needs to function properly, I am able to get more work done at a faster rate than when I am exhausted.
In the next couple weeks, try to get as much sleep as you can. It may seem counterintuitive, but sleep not only allows you to think more clearly, it can also boost your immune system. Tired of walking around with the sniffles? I know that I hate getting sick, especially during finals, when that sore throat makes you feel even worse as you head to the library’s 24-hour lounge to get some early-morning studying done. In addition, people who allow themselves to get behind on sleep also suffer from more mental breakdowns, as well as increased emotional suffering. Without sleep, everything in your life looks like it will be 12 times harder to accomplish. You start to go on Facebook more often to distract you from all of the work you still have to do and find that stalking your friend’s formal pictures has not made you feel any better. Instead, you start to question why she is able to have all this fun while you are stuck in Bartley until four in the morning. What is she doing right that you are not doing? How should you change your life in order to reach her levels of happiness? Thoughts of dying your hair and wearing more eyeliner fill your mind as you go onto Pinterest to search for new looks to try. Don’t waste your time falling into the sleep-deprived tendencies of exaggeration and overall grumpiness. Make a change, and try going to sleep earlier in order to feel better and get more work done than you could have at three in the morning.
Although finals can be a stressful time for everyone, I think eating fruits and vegetables, along with working out and getting enough sleep can protect you from breaking down in tears in the middle of the week. Choosing healthy options not only gives your body the nutrients it needs most, but it will also make you feel better than a cheeseburger will. These foods will actually give you more energy naturally than drinking another cup of coffee and can be delicious when put in a big salad or eaten with various dips and dressings. In addition, working out is the best de-stresser out there. Although it may feel like you will shed some of your stress by either wasting time on Facebook or studying nonstop for hours in the library, working out gives your mind the break it needs to come back more focused than ever. Finally, sleep is your friend. Think about how wonderful it feels to get under the covers after staring at a computer screen for hours. Now think about doing that earlier and feeling more alert and content for the entire next day because of it. I know it is easy for me to describe these alternatives and harder for you to actually put them into practice, but I have already made them a reality in my life and am finding myself happier and in better shape than ever. Give your body what it needs most, and it will thank you in the long run.