Coming to the homestretch

| Staff Columnist

It’s about that time again. We’ve filled up on mashed potatoes and family. The two-week stretch before winter break is upon us. A typical Wash. U. student might approach finals in one of three ways. The first is to throw herself into studying—cramming after class, working before class, making note cards in bed, dreaming of chemistry equations, rehearsing vocab in the shower. Then there’s the classic work-hard, play-hard approach. This student will slave over textbooks until the clock hits 8 p.m. on Thursday night and then rewards for daytime discipline will be rampant on Morgan Street. The third option, of course, is to give up.

The daunting task of completing five finals in five days is just too much for some. And because deep breathing exercises and the occasional 20-minute workout don’t always do the trick, the stress of finals pushes a generally diligent student over the edge. So, instead of lecturing you on the already well-known ways to prevent non-preventable stress, let’s just assume you’re past the point of no return.

During finals, stress is not some abstract, indefinable concept; rather, it is a way of life. Finals stress is jolts of caffeine when your body is begging for sleep. It is late nights turning into early mornings at Whispers café and 12 incoherent typed pages of a research paper that no longer makes any sense. The stress that comes with these next two weeks isn’t as scientifically precise as MedicineNet’s definition of “powerful neurochemicals and hormones that prepare us for action”—no, our stress is messy, and real and so very familiar.

For many at Wash. U., the quickened heart rate and nausea that come with approaching finals are feared more than the finals themselves. Effort is wasted worrying about anxiety, and comparatively less time is spent preparing for the exams and papers that determine our GPAs. Yes, finals have disproportionate weight when balanced with the constancy of work throughout the semester. And yes, one slip-up now has destructive potential when it comes to our tentative grades. That’s all the more reason to use stress to our advantage.

Eliminating it is impossible. Fighting it is futile. And as for running from it, well, we all know what comes with procrastination. So, why not accept it? I’ll be the first to admit that my finals track record isn’t exactly impeccable. But close bouts with option number three are things of the past. How can a student resist the urge to give in to the overwhelming nature of finals? The answer is alarmingly simple. Accept stress for what it is—a motivator.

It might make you sick and shaky, but if you decide the headache is worth the A, stress this week can be the very thing that makes the end of December that much more enjoyable. The best winter break is the one that follows a week of finals hell. So embrace your miserable self for the rest of the semester, and the home-cooked meals of the holidays will taste that much sweeter.

Alissa is a sophomore in Arts & Sciences. She can be reached via e-mail ararotbla@artsci.wustl.edu.