Stressed from studying? Cuddle with puppies or eat some ice cream

It’s the Sunday before finals week: a bittersweet, slightly chaotic, crisp day.   You’re probably torn between relaxing and cramming, or maybe you’re taking a break from that 10-page paper that is due tomorrow.

If you’re anything like me, you’re a little overwhelmed by the end of the semester, but you’re ecstatic that it’s almost done.   Now, if we can just get through finals with our GPAs intact…hmm.

You’ve probably heard the same study tips and suggestions a thousand times already, so I decided to get creative and offer you a few new, unusual ones.  If you’re tired of the monotony of writing flashcards and reading quietly, I hope this quirky list reaches you:

Strategy No. 1:  An article circulated around Facebook recently about a prestigious law school that brought in puppies to entertain stressed law students.  OK, you’re RA probably won’t let you try this in your residence hall, but here’s a thought.  Get some friends together and car-pool to the Wood County Humane Society.  Volunteer to play with the dogs with a few hours!  My service fraternity made a few trips there in November and had a great, stress-busting time walking the dogs.  Just don’t take them with you when you leave.

Strategy No. 2:  Indulge in a bad habit.  I’m not suggesting that you do anything harmful or illegal, obviously, but this might be a good week to splurge on Starbucks, watch your favorite movies on Netflix or whip out the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.   Being a little indulgent might help you relax.  You’ve been very self-disciplined this semester.  You’ve gone to class, taken clear notes and studied.  Why not give your sense of self-discipline a break and treat yourself to that delectable, overpriced coffee?

Strategy No. 3:  Have a five-minute workout.  You’ve probably heard that short study breaks are good for you.  I would definitely agree.  However, don’t just take breaks to run to the vending machines or check your Facebook.  Try something a little different: five-minute workouts.  Break up long periods of studying with quick workouts.  You can work out right at your desk.  Do a few leg stretches, try some deep-breathing exercises or if you’ve been sitting still for too long, stand up and run in place or do toe-touches.  Exercise helps the flow of oxygen to your brain.  It won’t take long, and it’s a great way to reenergize and refocus.

Strategy No. 4:  Use songs as silly mnemonic devices.  If you’ve ever taken a psychology class, you probably remember that your brain stores information better when you use memory strategies like mnemonic devices.  It’s true.  Chunking is a good one, too.   Break up information into “chunks,” the way you do with phone numbers and email addresses or create an acronym.  Remember PEMDAS?  How about MVEMJSUNP, or ROYGBIV or FACE?  It’s easier for your brain to remember an acronym than a long list.  Just make sure you’ve studied a concept enough to remember what the letter in the acronym stand for.  And if worse comes to worse, develop a silly song or modify the lyrics of your favorite song, to help you study.   It sounds crazy, but it works.  Once you’ve reinvented your favorite hit song to help you remember the periodic table or important dates in history, you might never forget it.  Sing it around your friends for some laughs (and embarrassment).

Strategy No. 5:  This one isn’t terribly original, but team up with other students.   Form a study group with students in your class or other residents on your floor.  Studying with peers is awesomely effective when done right.  Find a time that works for everyone and meet somewhere interesting like a coffee shop in downtown BG that you’ve never tried before.  Studying doesn’t have to take place in the library (although Jerome is an excellent venue if you like to study somewhere peaceful and quiet).  If everyone in your study group is reviewing the same material, divide up the work.  Assign each person a chapter of the textbook.  Spend some time studying your assigned chapters really closely, and then exchange notes.  Study groups are great because your peers can hold you accountable.  Besides, meeting up in a relaxed, social environment like Grounds for Thought or the second floor of the Union sounds better than cramming in a cramped dorm room anyway.

Good luck on your finals and have a great, safe holiday break!

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