Exam Crunch Time. Just Breathe. You Can Do It.

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Dear all stressing about things like AP exams, MCAT’s, the future, extracurricular, or some other real-world difficulties,

You can do it.  I may not know you.  But, believe you can if you set your mind to it.  But first and foremost, take care of your own body and mind.  Testing beings soon, don’t crash and don’t give up; the finish line is just a few bounds away– hang on a bit more.  Don’t let the negative thoughts overcome your mind; once frustration sets in, the negative thoughts will affect your performance and make everything harder.  Take a break, breathe, meditate, or try distracting yourself by setting a timer for 5-10 minutes and reading part of your favorite book, poem, or just something you find interesting.  For music-oriented people, pick up your instrument and play something you love until the timer signals the end of the break.  Or for those who love a good song, play an inspirational piece, something that will give you a temporary uplifting reprieve from studies; start jumping and pumping your fist in the air, get your blood flowing– it helps.  If time and your schedule permit, step away from screens, put your phone in your back pocket, grab ear buds, and go out for a walk or hang out with friends for an hour or so.  Seriously, just go outside, lay on your back, and count the clouds for a few minutes (while the day is still young, of course).

If you work yourself up to the point of breaking down, set aside all the signals in your head telling you, “I can’t make it.  There’s too much to do!  Not enough time!  I won’t have time to sleep today.”  They are negative, stressful, unhealthy.  Yet, don’t let go of that stress completely, use it to empower yourself.  Recognize that your day, week, month, or some time period will be literal hell and plan accordingly.  Here are a few tips that usually help:

1. Make check lists– Let’s be honest, once you finish something on the checklist, it feels soooo satisfying to scratch that thing off the list.  It’s also calming to have a list so you can see all the things you have to do without fear of forgetting something.

2. Schedule in breaks.  20 minutes of screen/homework/study time = 20 seconds of looking out the window.  1 hour of working total, allow yourself 2 minutes social media time and 8 minutes exercise or outdoors time.

3. Every time you feel like overwhelmed, take a break, pull out that checklist, and do something “easier.”  Just try working for two minutes, but try not to think about time.  You’ll be surprised how easy it is to accomplish things once you start.

4. If you really need to nap, make yourself a coffee (erm, not too strong, just something you’re used to or a wee bit more than that), chug it (don’t burn yourself), and set alarms for 15-20 minutes.  According to several sources, it takes about 15-30 minutes for caffeine to kick in (research it if skeptical).

5. Spend some time with friends or in social situations.  Even for introverts, interacting with people for a short while can do wonders for your sanity.  Of course, make sure it’s people who can make you laugh and relax.

6. Leave your phone in a different room.  Close that facebook tab.  Turn your music down low.  Ignoring these thing will help you focus, especially while studying.  Multitasking is scientifically proven to reduce cognitive function because the brain operates linearly.  Meaning that your brain will have to work harder to switch between topics, thus decreasing the speed it takes you to finish something.

7. Test out your delayed gratification.  Activities like watching animes, reading mangas, watching a television episode, playing a game, etc. are activities you know waste time and probably useless overall unless you are brain-dumping to a fellow fan.  But let’s be real here, when deadlines are near, cutting down on daily time-suckers, no matter how small, will save you a LOT of time.  Who knows, by the end of the deadline, you may have freed yourself of a time-sucking habit.  In the last week, I have been saving about 2 hours daily just by cutting down on mangas, television shows, facebook feed scrolling (I refuse to get a tumblr… my sleep will be even more non-existent), and gaming (yeah, I somehow stopped myself from gaming, woah).

8. Set times regularly.  I usually set my stopwatch at 5 minute intervals to remind myself of how long I’ve worked.  It also forces me to catch myself whenever I being getting sidetracked.  For example, if I being scrolling through my Facebook feed and my timer goes off, it bring me back to reality, reminds me that I wasted time I will never get back, and prevents me from wasting more time.

9. Stay hydrated and open a window.  Being hydrated helps you stay awake.  Opening a window, especially if it’s much colder outside also keeps you awake (and sometimes during breaks, catalyzes you to get your blood flowing from your butt to the rest of your body :P).

10. Believe in yourself.  If you’re feeling down, take a timed break and look up someone extraordinary.  Astronauts and scientists are great people to look into.  See their accomplishments in life and tell yourself, “If they can do it, I can too!”

I believe in you, you’ll make it through.

Cheshire.

A/N: Photo taken by Flickr user Karunakar Rayker of a weasel.  Why a weasel?  Because according to Annie Dillard, we should “Live Like a Weasel.” Hang on. Persevere.  It’s going to be a long ride, but we can do it.

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