22. How to Stay Calm During Finals Season

It’s almost the end of finals season for some, or it has recently ended for others. It’s undeniable that I struggle to cope with large amounts of deadlines (I had eight to contend with) but with some attention to stressors, it’s possible to get through that. These tips are coming from the mindset of someone with mental health problems, but I hope they will help you all.


How To Stay Calm During Finals Season (And Come Out Unscathed)

  1. Recognise your stressors: We all know within ourselves (or are getting to know) what brings us stress. In my case, it’s having lots of tasks to complete around the same time and not having an approach to getting them done. I need order and structure in my working life in order to stay calm, from making detailed plans for assignments to making general plans of what tasks to do first.
  2. Make listing your friend: Anyone that knows me knows I love to make lists. It feels like I’ve accomplished something as I tick off what has been achieved. Moreover, it’s a clear way of knowing both where you’re at and where you’re going.
  3. Map it out: On the course that I study, we have to write a lot of essays. While it’s true in the British education system that we write larger essays from GCSEs onwards, I’m certainly feeling it now that I’m on a writing degree! One way that you can get through that is to create mind maps for these essays. A way of doing this is to organise them into a ‘road map’ or ‘clock’, with each point relating to a point on the clock face. This helps me visualise the order of my essay as if each point were a puzzle piece, in that a final result can be met in this way.
  4. Be selfish: Sounds harsh, right? But it’s absolutely necessary for the sake of your wellbeing. By being selfish, I mean focus on the self more. Focus on what you need to be at your optimum health; be it eating better, drinking more water, staying active through physical activity or meditation for the mind, you have to do what’s best for you. It will be a struggle to get through all of the deadlines and exams without being selfish some of the time, so take this opportunity to look after yourself!
  5. Limit how much you do each day: This is something I’ve been trying to do more when I have impending deadlines, as I am the type to work until I physically have nothing left to give. If you have a big task, find a way to break it down into manageable chunks, and complete a chunk (or two) each day. By doing this, your tasks become much more realistic and achievable as opposed to being overwhelming. In addition, it reduces the chances of becoming stressed by having smaller targets to reach each day.

Where does all of this leave me?

I need to take some of these steps to heart, that much is true! Now that I’m writing these steps after my deadlines, I know that I will need to heed my own advice in the future if I want to remain calm and do well in my studies.

It’s not easy managing deadlines, but with a little management and taking the time to recognise your limits it can be done.

11. Dreamin’

In light of this semester being devoted to creative nonfiction, I thought I’d try and write a piece dedicated to dreams. This piece came out of a couple of recent dreams I’ve had recently. Let me know what you think in the comments!

I’m dreaming. Dreaming of five years from now and a possibility of a life with you. Forest leaves crunching underfoot as I walk to you; ivory innocence. There’s something so pure about it all, floating like nymphs on our way to destiny. Never shall I feel safer than I do now, close enough to bathe in your eyes. Then the image moves to you watching me adoringly as I enter the room in a crimson qipao (旗袍). 红色 (hong se). How lucky.

Passions mixed with passion fill this dream of you and me. Materialising dreams, or fabricating reality?  I don’t care, because I’m getting carried away and don’t want to stop dreamin’.

It’s when I fall into my mind that I want to be blind from reality. For a moment I can dream up all of your positive traits and leave negativity on the back shelf with reality. It gives me a chance to let my dreaming spirit and sensory overload unite into one.

And then my dreams shift. They shift to a point further in time where you still play a part, yet you’re less visible in this newer work of art.

I see myself as a carer; a carer for the innocent. I love the littles in a similar manner to my feelings for you, yet different at the same time. They are one with me in spirit, allowing me to frolick and be in their games.

I still am in awe of you. I adore you and all that you inspire me to be.

09. The Future of University

*Please note before I begin that these are my experiences of university, and by no means do I want them to cloud anyone else’s experiences. As for prospective students, please don’t let other people’s experiences cloud your own choices; you should study because you have the desire to learn ultimately.

With that said, let’s begin! I’ve been in and out of university for the last three years, with a brief break to overcome a bout of severe depression. Undeniably that was one of the hardest points in my life, and I pray that I never get that low again; in the same way, I hope that nobody else ever has to experience that kind of pain. I’ve been through one and a half years of two entirely different degrees, but ironically enough have hit the same slump at roughly the same point. There could be a correlation here as once again my health isn’t in the best place, but we’ll leave that aside for the moment.

There’s something about the 2nd year that leaves me questioning my purpose; my life; the reasoning; my future at the university. It could be that my course wants me to be physically there when sometimes I’m having such a flare up that getting out of bed is a tearful event, or that I need to be there in the midst of adjusting to new medication. It could be that my motivation hits the bottom of the Thames (or the Trent) at this point because I want good grades without the tedious tasks. Currently, I’m having an issue with spending far too much time on theory and not enough time creating. I’m not whining, I just thought I’d be challenged more creatively on a writing course?

I don’t know, something doesn’t sit right with me.

When I decided to come back to university, it was to become more of a creator. I’d lost joy and inspiration from being so heavily into humanities and statistics before, so I was really hoping that this time I’d do a lot of creating, but somehow I feel like I’m not. We create to fit our work into a box/mould when in reality I thought I’d be creating personal projects to develop as a writer in the real world. I guess I’m just unenthused by the whole thing and just want to feel more like I’m actively contributing to my future?

This is just one factor to why I’m conflicted about the traditional university.

Another reason is that I worry about having my health used against me. While off sick for a lot of the first semester, I was also able to keep up with deadlines. Yet I was “advised” to take time out, which would be another year wasted. Obviously, I know now that it wasn’t meant with ill intentions, but somehow it felt that way, thus creating a mental rift. From my perspective it makes it seem as if I’ll now be permanently on the chopping block, always one step away from being kicked out for the one thing I don’t have full control of right now; my health.

I know that I’m mentally capable of staying up to date (albeit from home when I’m sick, or increasingly depressed, which does happen), but being told the most logical option of completing a course that posts its materials online from home isn’t an option is rather depleting. I want to graduate and actually enjoy studying again, so surely if a method has worked well then it should be made a possibility?

I’ve been through the rigmarole of switching universities before, so to switch from what in Student Finance’s eyes would be full-time to part-time is something I’d much rather avoid. An online university sounds like a great option right now for progressing forward, but the lack of financial support makes it a bigger risk. You’d in effect have to work part time at the minimum to support yourself in the same way that the maintenance loan supports a full-time student, in spite of working ideally to the same rate as a full-time campus-based student. This is what makes it all so conflicting.

I don’t quite know where my future lies at university right at this moment, although I do know the finances will play a huge role in making any decisions moving forward.

If you were in this situation, what would you suggest?

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