Open When You’re Done With Finals: A Mental Health Letter To You

Finals week. 

It doesn’t matter if you are a first-year, senior, junior, or sophomore. Every semester, when the last few weeks of classes roll around, students can feel the anxious tension in the air floating around campus as libraries start getting more and more crowded, and “I have to study” becomes the more common response to your average “What are you doing tonight?” text. 

Finally, the end-of-semester stretch is here. Pun intended. But how did you get here? Was your semester one big, stress-filled four months of cramming for your next quiz, next paper, or next exam? Maybe it was a breeze, but even if you did not have to take any finals or excruciatingly difficult classes, we all know what it is like to feel the “Sunday Scaries”, and, for some, it is every day during this time of year. 

If you have ever felt that anxious flutter in your stomach before an exam, this is a personal letter to you because these past few months have not been easy, and a bit of friendly advice can be helpful when it feels like no one quite understands how you have been feeling. 

Most of us can agree that this entire year has felt, well, a little off. We have gotten used to face masks and Zoom meetings, events getting canceled because of sicknesses going around, and even news of the latest COVID-19 variant has started to fade into the background noise of stimuli we get on an everyday basis. 

To put it simply, it seems like nothing surprises us anymore. In a world where mindless scrolling on social media has become a pastime for children and increasingly for adults, this endless stream of information has numbed our brains into dealing with our new reality with apathy. We are no longer surprised by the nuances of this world, but we must take a step back and realize how much has changed in the past two years. In doing so, we can bring color back to our lives, distinction, so we can appreciate the layers of life around us. 

Take a moment to compare yourself to where you were last year. You went from staying home, away from people you love, and seemingly endless days of isolation to jumping right back into a semblance of normalcy. You went to classes in person, ate at restaurants, hung out with friends, but something did not feel right. At times, you still felt stuck in that rut. There was probably a point in the semester where everything just felt too hard, and things that used to be enjoyable became forced. You stopped trying so hard. It started getting easier and easier to stop being your best self and settle for less than your full potential. 

Before you knew it, it was December, and you had no choice but to deal with final exams. Then the pressure was overwhelming, so much to study for with so little time. It barely felt like the holiday season. You had to think about your exams while packing for your Thanksgiving Break, mull over creating a sound study schedule while eating turkey at the dinner table, and stress over everything you had to get done before the end of the semester while making plans to get home for Christmas. Some days you felt like you did not have enough time to reach your goals, and procrastination was like a heavy weight hanging over your body, seeming to physically keep you from getting ahead on assignments. 

But it is over now. You are done with finals. You can release the grip that anxiety has had on your brain for the past few weeks. You have earned a breather. But the work is not over yet. You have one big task to fulfill before the start of next year, where, unfortunately, you are going to have to do it all over again: take care of yourself, and I promise you, it will not feel so hard next time. 

So, how should you be taking care of yourself, you might ask? Everyone relaxes in different ways. You might enjoy reading that book you haven’t had time to read, taking a walk outside and getting some Vitamin D, seeing hometown friends that you have not seen in a while, taking a road trip somewhere, or maybe taking a day to catch up on the Netflix show you have been neglecting. 

For those of us who have trouble setting aside time to enjoy leisurely activities, try following this self-care challenge created by a group of students at Butler University. It is a list of simple things you can do each day to give yourself that boost you might need to get back to your routine. 

Most importantly, I think you should focus on separating yourself from the person you were two years ago. Our world has changed indefinitely; we have to stop chasing the reality that we used to know and concentrate on bettering ourselves today. Know that you are not alone in your times of “offness.” We ALL feel it, even when it seems like others have an easier time concealing it. 

Finally, I want to leave you on a positive note. If no one has told you lately, I am proud of you for making it this far, and you should be proud of yourself. Whether you are satisfied with your performance this year so far or not, know that you have the power to do better moving on. It is never too late for improvement, and you do have time to fix whatever it is that you are disappointed in. 

Whether you are a first-year, senior, junior, or sophomore, we all know the feeling. It’s about how you deal with it that says the most about you. 

 

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