“I’m so stressed out I could die… or at least have a major mental breakdown.”

I so remember this feeling. I’m not sure there is anything I can really say that is going to make you feel better, but I’m going to try.

1. You are not alone.

EVERYONE feels like this during the end of the semester.  If you have friends that don’t seem stressed, they either a) have a super easy final exam load or b) have found their zen-like-state.  If the latter is true, ask them to share their secrets.

2. Make a list of everything.

I mean everything that you need to accomplish before the end of the semester.  I had a roommate in college who would do this frequently.  We’d make lists at any point when we were frantic with stress.  Then, we would tack it to the wall in the middle of our dorm room so we could assess it every day.  Any time we got to scratch something off the list, we’d have a mini (or major) dance party.

3. Speaking of dance parties, find little ways to celebrate the small victories or relieve stress.

Dance parties, going for a walk or run, Dove dark chocolate, whatever.  Don’t wait until absolutely everything is done to celebrate or blow of steam.  And if you can’t remember the last time you had a good laugh, fix that.  Laughter always seems to lighten my load.

4. Breathe.

If you are legitimately, physically struggling with anxiety, try this breathing exercise at least once a day.  (There have been times in my life I’ve had to do this when I wake up, mid-afternoon, and again before going to sleep.)  Lay down on the floor, cut noise, low lights, etc.  Breath in for 10 seconds, hold for 10 seconds, and blow out for 10 seconds.  The goal is to do this for 5 minutes, but that can be hard when you first start out.   So go for as long as you can.  This will force your body to physically relax and hopefully help with those knots in your stomach.

5. Make a detailed plan…

of how you’re going to tackle it all.  You’ve got your “hit list” from #2, but you need to get nitty-gritty and show yourself that there are enough hours in the day to get it all done.  I suggest printing out a paper calendar, starting with due dates and working backwards.  Don’t give yourself 2 days to write a 15 page paper.  Instead, plan out small blocks of time (1-2 hours) over several days to work on that paper.  Then, spread out a number of hours over those same days to study for your biology exam.  You’ll do better if you give yourself a few papers/projects/exams to work on each day, rather than just focusing on one project for an ungodly amount of time.

6. Reassess your detailed plan.

At the end of every day before you go to sleep, reassess your detailed plan.  Did you accomplish what you needed to that day?  If not, just adjust your remaining plan.  No need to beat yourself up.  Adjust your schedule and then go to sleep.

7. Schedule time to grab dinner with friends, watch an hour of TV, go to the gym, whatever re-energizes you.

It’s easy to feel guilty doing this when you know you have a ton to get done.  But you will be more productive if you are kind to yourself and give yourself a break once in a while.

8. When you start to feel overwhelmed, remind yourself: This is just for a few more days and it will all get done.

Nothing you are working on is life or death (even though it might feel that way).  Take a deep breath (or if you want to be serious, do the exercise in #4), let out some steam (laugh, run, chocolate, an hour of tv), and then keep chipping away.  Eventually, your to-do list will be to-doNE.

What other stress-relieving, coping, or planning tips have worked for you during the end-of-semester crunch?