How to Avoid Finals Burnout – And What to Do If You’re Already There


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Burnout: it’s the root of all finals-related fear. You’ve worked diligently for months, only to confront one heck of a finals week that could easily fall apart, if you succumb to this seven-letter “B” word. Burnout has been known to make even the most level-headed college students resort to crazy measures to keep their heads above water in order to make the grade. But, it doesn’t have to be this way.

Believe it or not, burnout can be totally avoidable with a few solid, time-proven measures in place. Because burnout is usually stress-related, the secret lies in plenty of preparation for final projects, papers, and exams to avoid – you guessed it – stress. And while you may be shaking your head in denial at the mere thought of actually overcoming finals stress, your friends at uCribs have news for you: it’s actually super doable to get a grip on burnout-inducing habits before they cripple your study grind and pull a fast one on your end-of-semester grades. Want the scoop? Don’t worry, we’re spilling all the tea on how to orchestrate a burnout-free finals season below!

Be realistic about your goals.

Finals tend to bring out the overachiever in all of us. After all, it’s our last shot to clench the grade we want and impress our professors before next semester – or your upcoming graduation! But, even if your heart is in the right place, trying your very best can easily devolve into delusions about what can be accomplished with so little time to spare, like the time you tried creating a knockout final presentation in a matter of three hours and realized—miserably, we might add— that you simply didn’t have enough time to do so.

We don’t need to remind you that every moment counts when it comes to finals preparation. So, instead of trying to do every small assignment to perfection – and waste a ton of time in the process – be honest with yourself and your staggering to-do list. Do you really think you’ll make it to the extra credit movie night at 8:00 PM when your geology final is due at 7:00 PM? Should you claim the harder essay topic to show off to your TA, or the easier topic on which you have way more knowledge? Only you will be able to prioritize your assignments in a way that best fits your needs, like you’ve done time and time again throughout your college career.

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Don’t skimp on sleep.

During finals week, you may not feel the need – or desire, even – to stick to your regular sleep schedule. Whether you’ve accidentally consumed one too many cappuccinos, or simply can’t handle the idea of sacrificing a crucial assignment’s completion for a full nights’ sleep, finals week seems to go hand-in-hand with sleep deprivation. If you’re hoping to minimize your chances of burnout, though, you’ll want to think twice about ignoring your smartphone’s bedtime reminder. Getting a full night’s rest – or even a few hours of decent shut-eye – can make a world of difference to your already frazzled mind.

Have you ever tried to retain new information after a night of tossing and turning? If so, you may recall how difficult it was to grasp your professor’s lecture, even after downing that energy shot. This is because sleep is crucial to memory function. When you don’t get enough hours in, you essentially wreak havoc on the parts of your brain that process and store newly acquired info. There is ample evidence to support the notion that sleep cycles boost brain power – which, you know, is super important when it comes to your final exams. Our advice? Don’t ignore your body’s need for sleep. Otherwise, you might risk forgetting everything you learned during your study sessions – there is such a thing as over-preparing, you know.

Don’t neglect your social life.

During finals week, it’s all too tempting to hole yourself away for days on end, all in the name of nailing your last few assignments. While there’s nothing wrong with wanting to do well, don’t fool yourself into thinking that you won’t miss socially engaging with others. In fact, staying in touch with friends and remaining active on campus— even during your last, most stressful days before the completion of the semester— can help you avoid the dreaded burnout and keep things in perspective when you’re ready to call it quits on your degree altogether.

As social creatures, we thrive on interpersonal connection. That’s why seeing your best friend after a rough day always puts a smile on your face. It also explains why talking through issues with other people helps us view our problems in new ways and encourages us to continue the fight for good grades – because, hey, if your lab partner can pull through that practical, so can you! Plus, hanging around other college students, who are equally as stressed as you are about finals, can help you realize that you’re not alone in your quest for a better future.

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Find a destressing regimen that works.

No matter how hard you try, you likely won’t be able to eliminate every trace of finals jitters, so it’s important to find a destressing regimen that works well for you. Sadly, time to dedicate to destressing is one of the first things we tend to overlook, as overworked students with literally no time to spare. Regularly allowing yourself a small break to clear your mind and do something other than studying is one of the most effective ways to rid yourself of burnout before it even has the chance to strike.

As you’ll soon find out, there are a ton of amazing ways to beat stress and have fun while doing it. Physical exercise tops the list of stress-busting activities for a reason – it benefits your physical and mental health, while encouraging you to break free of your cramped study space. Meditating is another awesome way to positively focus your energy and rid yourself of any nagging concerns. You may even introduce a soothing playlist into your new mindfulness routine for an extra boost of serenity. The good news is that any activity can be transformed into a mechanism for dealing with stress, so let your passions guide you to a destressing regimen that reminds you of the good times – AKA, the times when you weren’t completely buried behind stacks on stacks of books!

Remain positive.

There’s serious power in positivity. Don’t believe us? Just ask Abraham Lincoln, who once stated that “most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Numerous studies confirm that positive thinking opens us up to more possibilities, in the form of opportunities, positively-minded people, and the like. Plus, thinking positively can help reduce depression and stress, even leading to a longer life span for some.

We know that it’s easier said than done but reframing your negative mindset can aid you in your battle against finals burnout. Instead of viewing finals as a huge burden designed to make students freak, try seeing the unavoidable event in a more positive light. Remember, finals aren’t meant to destroy your end-of-year buzz, but rather help you master the material you’ve spent so much time – and financial aid money – coming to understand. And think about the sense of accomplishment you’ll feel once those pesky exams are behind you! Finally, remind yourself that your finals are a very small factor in the larger equation of higher education – and, no matter the grade, you should still feel proud of yourself for pursuing rigorous coursework in the name of an amazing career.

Already feeling the burn of finals burnout?

It happens to everyone. No matter how much you tried to avoid burnout, it’s already reared its ugly head, leaving you with minimal motivation to turn on your computer, let alone hammer out that final 500-word response. If you’re feeling mentally exhausted, unwilling to study, and apathetic towards your upcoming exams, there’s no doubt about it: you’ve officially reached burnout level—but we won’t stick a fork in you yet, because despite what you think, you’re not “done.” While taking preventative measures is hands-down the best way to tackle burnout, there are a few ways to get back in the saddle before your current burnout takes a turn for the worse – and traps your grades in its crosshairs.

Because burnout has everything to do with stress, you’ll want to get a firm grip on stress management. First, follow this blog’s initial suggestion to establish a sensible timeline for your remaining assignments. Next, think critically about your study habits to pinpoint where the extra stress is coming from. Perhaps, your study buddy has been slacking off lately, and their behavior has begun to rub off on you. Or, maybe, you’re having a hard time recalling information from past lectures, and it’s frustrating you to the point where you don’t even want to try. Whatever it is, do what you can in the time you have left—and most of all, be kind to yourself.

Finals season is never fun, and with burnout lurking behind every corner, the last few weeks of the academic year can feel like an all-out war against your work ethic. No doubt about it – burnout can spell disaster for your final grades if it goes unchecked, but fortunately, there are several ways to beat it to the punch or work to eliminate it— if burnout has already settled in, that is. Consider these tips your secret weapon against burnout, for finals season and beyond!

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Amelia Woolard is a graduate of Millsaps College, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in Communications Studies and an Art History minor. A native of Jackson, Mississippi, Amelia moved to New Orleans in 2014 to begin her career in marketing and design. She is particularly interested in the intersection of art and language, and enjoys projects that merge the two fields. Amelia is an avid yet critical pop culture consumer and a loving mother to her cat Faulkner.

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