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How To Ace the Mental Health Part of Finals

Updated: Aug 18, 2023

Taylor Boatright

"What’s coming will come and we’ll meet it when it does" – Hagrid

Disclaimer: The below article is focused on helping 1Ls make it through their first round of finals with *most* of their mental health still intact; however, most of the advice encapsulated within can be applied at any stage, whether you’re in school, interning, or in your full-time job.

Are you stressed about finals? Have you been waiting for someone to tell you you’re going to be ok? Well, you’re going to be ok, so take a deep breath and continue reading for some tips to help.

We all know finals are tough on the mind and body, especially first semester finals. Unfortunately, I don’t have all the exam answers, but I can share some advice that has been helpful to me.

1. Figure out a study style that works best for you.

This is so important! I work best when I can review and create an outline myself, and then work with others to go through questions and reviews. Finding a study style that worked well for me was one of the best things I did 1L year.

2. You have probably been told “focus only on finals - outlining and studying over Thanksgiving. You have no time for family/friends.” While this is so important, so is your mental health.

That being said, if studying instead of joining in on Thanksgiving activities is what you feel you have to do, then do it! That’s ok! But also, don’t feel bad about being home with family or friends over Thanksgiving break. Intentionally depriving yourself of this time will likely not help your sanity for the coming three weeks. BUT if you do this, it is vitally important that you make studying/outlining your priority.

Some tips on how I managed Thanksgiving week:
- Create and maintain a daily study schedule:
Ex: study from 8 a.m. – 6 p.m. every day (except maybe a break on Thanksgiving day)

- Bring your outlines/notes everywhere. I brought mine to Thanksgiving dinner and had my family quiz me on Crim. Doing this actually made it fun and since most of them had questions about what things were, I was able to really determine what I knew and what I needed to work on.

3. Make time to eat, exercise, drink water, meditate, and connect with friends/family.

Have easy meals on deck. Some WholeFoods freezer meals were my best friend - an easy and quick lunch or dinner.

Hop on the treadmill for 30 minutes while you read over your outline. Studies have shown that walking can help increase cognitive retention of information.

Meditation is probably one of the best things you can do if you have an anxious mind. There are so many proven benefits it gives you, and even if you don’t think it’s working, it is. Professor Steffey suggests finding a set time during the day and making it a part of your daily routine. There are so many free resources available – scroll to the bottom for a list!

Call a friend or family member. It can be as little as 10 - 15 minutes, but use that time and walk around your apartment, the school, or wherever you are. This is a double mental health win – a little bit of movement for the body and a little time for connection.

4. Positive self-talk and changing your attitude towards finals season.

Finals can create a real sense of dread, but changing your mind set towards this time can help reduce any anxiety you may feel. The less anxiety you hold before an exam, the better you’ll perform. Every time you want to say, “ugh I hate this,” try saying “I’m so excited to study!” There are many articles discussing benefits of the phrase “fake it till you make it.”

Finally, the best advice I was given at my previous job was “it’s just tennis.” So, remember that it’s just law school - it’s not a life-or-death situation, even though it feels like it. Just remember why you began this journey, take deep breaths, put in the work, and make sure to put some of that work into yourself.

You got this!

See below for resources. And remember, don’t be afraid to ask for the help you need :)


Meditation Sessions on Saturdays:
Professor Steffey hosts a weekly meditation on Saturday at 12 p.m. Shoot him an email to be placed on the list serve for email reminders and zoom links!

Dr. Mullins is MC's School Counselor, so feel free to reach out to her!
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