I look over. We’re in the middle of finals week in college and my friend is living off Cold Stone ice cream cups and cold breakfast pizza. Printers and computers are on blast and eyes are as big as saucers in the library, cramming test notes, taking Adderall like tic-tacs and pounding down red bull. People have set up camp in the library, duffel bags of chemical enriched food and pillows stuffed under desks. I’m distracted by a joking conversation that I’ve heard ever single day since last week. “Mann, I’ve been living off Oreo bags and and grande ranch Doritos for every meal and I don’t have time to cook. I am so stressed.”
Don’t be. Because although finals are a mighty blow to your well balanced routine, there are many ways to maintain health and grades during this incredibly brutal week. Ok I’m really not going to lie to you…I’m halfway into my finals week and have had a good amount of burritos and bagels at really weird times of the day. It’s quick and easy to either not eat and study for hours on end, or eat a lot…for hours on end. The only problem is that when you’re spending your week eating bags of nacho flavored corn puffs, you may actually be contributing to more stress and not the most optimal final grades. While junk food makes you feel good temporarily, it’ll harm your concentration and your GPA. While it is true that cooking takes time…ain’t nobody got time for that! So what in the world do you do when it’s finals week and you’re a broke, stressed, carefree college kid?
– Lots of caffeine and sugar helps: your blood sugar levels and mood will actually fluctuate off the charts and leave you exhausted both physically and mentally.
– Snacks high in carbs and starch make you feel good: they actually make you extremely sleepy and tired. They will calm your anxiety, and also put you to sleep while doing it.
– Sleep is not needed: Jk, it really is. Because who in the world is going to be able to run on Monster and 2 hours of sleep halfway into the week?
Getting a good night of sleep as you would any other time during the school year will improve functioning, appetite, stress…and basically everything else. It’s tempting to stay up, and since I’m in college I know that you’re on Facebook and YouTube in the library at 12 am, and not looking at your textbook…so save it, and get to sleep.
HOW TO ACE YOUR LIFE, OUTSIDE OF YOUR FINALS:
1. CHOCOLATE: Food of the Gods! DO IT. DAILY. Did you know that eating a square of chocolate before an exam or a crash study session stimulates parts of your brain that improve information retrieval? Chocolate also helps to subconsciously relieve stress and make you feel more alert due to the flavanols in the cocoa…especially when you’re up all hours of the night in your school’s library and need a little natural brain stimulation. White chocolate is lower in calories, and Carob is a caffeine-free option that is packed with antioxidants, and will trick your brain into thinking you’re eating sweet dessert. Buy a bar or two for under $2 at your local grocery store, and break them into square portions.
2. EATTA BOWL: A bowl of lots of different things mixed into one! If you’re on the go and stop at a burrito place like Qdoba or Chipotle for example, face the fact that a small container of corn chips with cheese are not going to be stimulating the best study habits. Instead, feel full and happy off a bowl of substituted healthy ingredients; some rice, beans, meat/protein, veggies, and some cheese sprinkles! Add some guacamole, because avocados are a wonderful brain food. If you’re at home and low on money, buy some canned beans, tuna and lettuce (for a total of under $5) and mix everything up with a little salt. You’ll have a couple giant meals for lunch, and be able to get ingredients cheaper than a double Big Mac.
3. GO BANANAS: Fruit is incredibly beneficial during finals week and study sessions. Fruit has natural sugar that will provide you with clean energy and brain stimulations. Bananas are packed with high amounts of sugar and can be frozen, baked, or eaten plain. They are easy to carry around, and come in large bunches for a couple dollars.
4. SMART SNACKS: Would include a banana with peanut butter, a baked potato with some cottage cheese or yogurt, a sandwich or a sweet potato with some cinnamon. Snacks for high energy include: veggies and hummus, peanut butter and jelly, fruit, a bowl of cereal and some nuts. Cereal with milk is my snack of choice for feeling energized again (but no, I’m not talking about Lucky Charms and Honeycombs, I’m talking about whole grain cheerios) and oatmeal is incredibly cheap…buy some oats in bulk and simply add water. Make quick fun combos like quesadillas and toasted sandwiches, and all you need to do is put them in a bag in your back pack. You can make a lot of food while you’re studying too…for example, find a recipe for chili or make a large portion of rice, and while it cooks for 2 hours sit and study in the kitchen. You’ll ben multitasking, while preparing everything for your week. And if you’re worried about feeling weird pulling out a tupperware of rice from home in the library…understand that in college, nobody cares.
5. WATER YOURSELF: Stay hydrated! All that coffee you’re drinking around the clock paired with red bull is going to drain your system, as well as all the sodium and sugar you’re consuming from junk food. Not to mention, all the alcohol being handed out at end of the semester parties. Drink a lot of water, and try some tea!
6. ANYONE HAVE SOME GUM?: Chew away! Gum helps to relieve stress, increase alertness and reaction times and even put you in a better mood. BOOM.
8. GET OFF THE PILLS: Sorry to say, you do not need Adderall if it has not been prescribed to you, or any other medication. It doesn’t matter if everyone does it or if you think one time is ok…it’s unnecessary and can be harmful. What you need is to simply sit down and focus on your work. When you’re in college, studying is a huge bummer, but it teaches you how to develop discipline. Get good grades your own way, through your own motivation. Just like weight loss supplements only act as “supplements” and what you eat and how you exercise is more important, the same goes for study supplements and pills.
9. AND IF YOU ABSOLUTELY REFUSE TO EAT AT HOME AND MUST HAVE FAST FOOD: Here is what to order. McDonalds: Egg McMuffins or Snack Wrap with grilled chicken. Panera: Fuji Apple Chicken Salad or Mediterranean Veggie Salad Sandwich. Wendy’s: Mandarin Chicken Salad or Grilled Chicken Wrap. Chipotle: Burrito Bowl. Burger King: Veggie Burger. Vending machines: Pretzels (add peanut butter) Sunflower kernels, Sun chips, Fig newtons, Nature Valley granola bars, or honey roasted peanuts/nuts.
Don’t stress, Do eat, and get through this brutal week. Know that it can be managed and you can be efficient without spending a lot of money. Don’t fall into a starchy caffeinated trap of espresso shots, Adderall and bagels, and feed your brain food that will get you to the top. You may have read this on your way to the library cafe and still decide to get a brownie and Venti caramel cream coffee frap, but my challenge to you is to take a risk, and experiment by reaching for some fresh fruit.
The best of luck and love,