The Ultimate Guide to Self-Care During Finals

Lack of sleep, junk food/quick eats, a gallon of coffee, cramming… These things go hand in hand with studying for, or during finals, but this doesn’t have to be the case. In fact, these are some of the worst things you can do for your body, brain, and overall self when prepping for exams. Ive decided to put together a list of tried and true rituals I practice while prepping for the end of the semester.

Create a Cozy Space

For me, having a cozy + clean space is very important when studying. I love to light a candle for some “ambience” and if I’m really stressed out, I use essential oils. I have this really handy lavender roll-on essential oil blend that I found at target. I only reach for the roller ball if I’m really struggling to study, as I normally just use it before bed to wind down.

Coffee or Gum

It has been proven that when you associate something such as food, drink, or scent while studying, you’re more likely to remember what you studied. The proper term for this is “Associative memory”. It “…is defined as the ability to learn and remember the relationship between unrelated items such as the name of someone we have just met or the aroma of a particular perfume”, explains Wendy A. Suzuki, Ph.D in her article published by the APA. So aside of caffeine’s ability to help you hyper-concentrate, drinking it while studying and again while taking the exam, will help you perform better. Again, if you can’t get your hands on coffee, use perfume or gum. Think of this technique as your insurance.

Masking While Breaking

Taking breaks while you study is just as important as the studying itself. This is why we don’t cram! Our brains can only pay attention - while fully absorbing information - for approximately fifteen minutes. I recommend reading a chunk, and then take a break, BUT do not reach for your phone. This is why masking for your first break is perfect! You get the chance to give yourself a little spa treatment while avoiding technology. There are two reasons why I say stay away from your phone. 1. Once you pick it up, are you going to put it down? Probably not. So you’ll either stop studying entirely or… 2. You’ll attempt the impossible multitasking. Our brains were not made to multi-task. I know, a lot of us say, “music helps me focus”. Well, unless you’re listening to Chopin, Beethoven, or Debussy, thats simply not true. Trust me, I wish it was because I love music just as much as the next person.

Eat Well

Indulge in fruits and veggies! Feed your brain and feed your body with the nutrients it needs to recuperate during this stressful time. Coffee is obviously an exception. Something we are told school all of the time is, “don’t forget to eat breakfast”. Always make sure you eat a balanced breakfast the day you have an exam. Fun fact, it doesn’t hurt to have some sweets while you’re studying, but try to keep it limited to fruit rather than ice cream. “If there isn’t enough glucose in the brain, for example, neurotransmitters, the brain’s chemical messengers, are not produced and communication between neurons breaks down” - Scott Edwards elaborates on glucose’s role in brain function in an article for Harvard Medical School. Sugar is your brain’s fuel! Snack on an apple or some berries to improve retainment of the information you’re studying.

Get Enough Sleep

Yes, studying is very important. Although if you’ve had a long week, with limited studying time, sleep is still your best bet. It is a common misconception that the hours of studying are the cause of a good grade. While that may be true, correlation doesn’t equal causation. The amount of hours you spend studying is beneficial when spread out over time, not when crammed. Lack of sleep can cause forgetfulness, therefore making study time near useless if one is up till midnight.


If I’m being honest with you all, I thought this was crap at first. Until I tried it. Really really tried it. If you truly believe you can do something, you will do it. This is the pep talk people give them selves before doing something big. For me, I just think about it rather than talk to myself in the mirror, but whatever floats your boat. Go into that exam telling yourself silently, “I’m going to kick ass… I’m going to get an A”. I’ve never been secure in test taking, in fact, I have severe test anxiety. Doing this has changed my grades significantly. I promise, if you walk into class and take the thirty minutes of that exam to be completely and temporary full of yourself, you will do great. Then leave the cockiness in the classroom, and take your confidence with you. Using this technique has made me look forward to tests because I feel great after, and so will you.

I hope this helps you during the “most wonderful time of the year”. You can do it!

Thank you for reading! ♡

Emma BriseñoComment