Final exam season is stressful, there’s no doubt about it. Whether it’s your first final exam ever at the UofA, or the last one of your degree, final exams always seem to bring on a mountain of emotions. Even after being a UofA student for 5 years, the stress of final exam season always seems to creep up on me! Throughout this blog post, I wanted to share some of my own experiences with final exams and how I incorporated self care into my life to help me get through it. I hope this blog post reminds you that you’re not alone in the stress of final exams, and maybe you’ll learn a thing or two about self care as well!
What even is self-care?
In my first year of University, I remember the word “self-care” being thrown around all the time. It seemed like everyone was telling me to practice self-care, but nobody was actually explaining what it was. In my head, I thought self-care was mostly about taking long baths with candles and bath bombs, but it wasn’t until I first started volunteering at the Peer Support Centre that I learned more about what self-care really is.
While I am by no means an expert on the subject, to me, self-care is just one of the ways we can help bring more balance into our lives. Especially as university students, we tend to neglect taking care of ourselves - I know I definitely did when I was first starting my degree. I used to fill my day with classes, volunteering, working, studying, and so many other commitments that even just opening my google calendar to look at my schedule would feel overwhelming. Usually things like hanging out with friends, going to the gym, or keeping up with the newest episode of your favourite reality TV show are the first things we take off our schedules when we’re running out of time in our day, and I was no exception to this. And while yes, it probably isn’t the best idea to rewatch the entirety of Grey’s Anatomy the week before your biochemistry final, it’s definitely important to make time for yourself in some way. Self-care can be anything from scrolling on TikTok before you go to sleep, playing the piano, going for a jog, talking to a friend or family member, or playing video games, just to name a few.
I still struggle to make time for self-care sometimes, but I definitely am proud of the improvements I’ve made. Incorporating self-care into your life doesn’t have to mean dramatic changes like completely altering your daily schedule so you can now spend 6 hours each day doing self care-activities. It can include smaller, but still impactful, adjustments too. One of my favourite ways to incorporate self-care into my final exam season is to go to the Daily Grind or Starbucks after an exam with some friends and get myself something nice to eat or drink. Regardless of whether it was the worst exam I’ve ever written or if I feel like I absolutely aced it, it’s nice to always have something to look forward to. I also like to switch up where I study once in a while for a change of scenery and study at a coffee shop with some friends - it helps keep me grounded and reminds me that despite feeling like the world stops turning during exam season, life goes on.
Self-care can mean different things to different people.
Some of my favourite ways to practice self-care are by taking a nap or rewatching some of my comfort TV shows (Modern Family being the best one, of course). What works for someone else may not work for you, and that is completely okay! One of my best friends loves to do yoga as a form of self-care - I tried it once for fun, but I found out that it didn’t make me feel as relaxed. Sometimes it can be hard not to compare yourself to others, but it’s important to remember that self-care is about you and what helps you recharge after a long day. This means that sometimes self-care may include not doing things - it’s okay to say no to plans with friends or other extra commitments if you’re not up for it!
You’re not alone and you’ve got this!
I still remember my very first UofA final exam. I had been stressed all week about it, and when I walked into Main Gym I couldn’t find an empty seat for my exam, my pencil ran out of lead, the person behind me spilled their water bottle on me by accident… and the list goes on and on. It seemed like everything that could possibly have gone wrong, did go wrong, and I felt absolutely miserable afterwards. I’ve had more good and bad exam experiences along the way, but my friends and family definitely helped me get through it all.
While the feeling of writing an exam in the Butterdome with hundreds of other people is overwhelming, it’s a little comforting to be surrounded by other people who are also likely feeling that stress and pressure. There’s a collective panic of hearing someone mention a concept you didn’t study as you walk into an exam room and a collective sigh of relief at the end of the exam because you’re all finally done. I remember the day before my organic chemistry final when I felt completely lost on how to study and hopeless for the exam, so I had planned to attend my professor’s office hours later in the day. Once I got there, I found that there were actually so many students waiting to see her that there was a line down the hallway to her office! It was an oddly comforting feeling to realize that I wasn’t the only one who needed help. Looking back on all the final exams that I’ve written, it’s not the questions that I remember, or even the marks - it’s the happy and funny memories of long nights studying in ECHA with my friends or video calling each other to review for our classes together that left an impact on me.
Final exam season can seem overwhelming, but in just a few short weeks it will be over and will be nothing but a memory. If you can take one thing away from this blog post, I hope it is to be kind to yourself during final exam season. You’ve made it this far in the semester, and now it’s just the final stretch! I encourage you to try different forms of self care and find what works for you.
If you need some extra support during final exam season, there are so many resources for you at the University of Alberta, including the Peer Support Center. You can contact us at email@example.com for any questions, book a virtual or in-person appointment with us, or drop in to our center in SUB 2-707. Take a deep breath, you’ve got this!
Roja Suthaker (she/her) is a first year Doctor of Medicine student at the University of Alberta who has been volunteering at the Peer Support Center for 2 years. She holds a BSc (Hons.) in Psychology and is passionate about contributing to the campus community at the University of Alberta. When she’s not working or studying, Roja enjoys dancing and catching up on the newest Netflix shows.