Getting Through the End-of-Semester Slump

adapted from posts by Alison Glass and Joanna June

Do you feel that buzz in the air? Or maybe you can actually feel the vibrations under your skin and drumming in your ears. You might even be thinking “I don’t have time to read Hack Library School right now!” It isn’t just the caffeine you’ve been living on. If you’re like a number of our fellow LIS students, professionals, and hackers, what you’re surely feeling right now is STRESS.

Even if you are done with your own finals, if you’re working in a library or around any type of student population, by osmosis you are picking up on the stress hormones of those around you. Patience is hard to come by. Deadlines feel like do-or-die. Your brain feels like it is careening around the blackness on the back of a TRON bike.

Breathe, friend, and let’s talk stress management. How can we make it to the end of the semester without suffering a nervous breakdown? Here are some hacks and tips:

Breathe.

Seriously this is the best tip I can offer. In fact, stand up from your computer or put down your portable device right now and take 10 deep breaths. Close your eyes and ease your shoulders down. Stare at the back of your eyelids. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth 10 times. Repeat once an hour or as needed.

Make a list.

The big, scary, undefined is a Goliath on steroids. If you break your tasks down, they become littler gremlins. The list also helps you prioritize and see if there are demands on your time that you might be able to release or slide. I did this with this very post, as I was scheduled for last week and knew I just couldn’t get it done. What a difference a few days can make! The list also lets you see there is some end in sight.

Make a schedule, and stick to it.

Sometimes I think professors get together and agree on one or two days to be the due dates for all final assignments. Regardless, we all know that the last few weeks of the semester are going to be a whirlwind of papers, projects, poster presentations, and other finals. Before you’re in the midst of this whirlwind, block out specific chunks of time to work on each assignment, and stick to the schedule. This is helpful both in budgeting your time to get everything done and forcing you to stop, take a break, or work on something else before you get to the point of pulling out your hair.

Pick and choose the things you go to.

There are lots of great things going on, but you don’t have to go to every single club meeting, academic talk, or social event. Choose the events that you feel are most relevant or important to you, and pass on the others. There will be other opportunities for learning and growing as a professional and socializing with your classmates, so you don’t have to fit everything into this one insane two-week period.

Talk to your friends and family to let them know what you are facing in advance. Let them know that you’re just not going to have a whole lot of time to enjoy their company or other extracurriculars. This eases some of the social pressures and lets you focus on what you need to get done so you can enjoy later.

Reach out to your professors.

If that major project or term paper is just not coming together and completely overwhelming you, send an email to your professor and let them know. Offer to show proof of work and ask (politely) for an extension. Or offer to turn in the assignment as it is at the deadline but ask if you can work on it for an extra few days or discuss it’s failings to make corrections in the hopes of improving your grade. The point of this schooling after all is to teach us to be professionals. Just as you could and should be upfront with a boss about a need for an extension to make a work product better, so too could you do the same with coursework. It never hurts to ask.

Move.

Exercise is incredibly good for the brain. Take a walk, go to kick-boxing or Zumba, run, bike, or simply stand up and do 40 jumping jacks — studies also show that just taking quick breaks from sitting for long periods helps with overall health. Get your blood flowing and release some of that tension.

Make time for yourself.

I think this is particularly important for those of us who are introverts. Many end-of-semester activities involve being around a lot of people, and this can be draining. It’s important, even when you have a lot of items to check off your to-do list, to take some time to relax. Do yoga, read a book for fun, watch an episode or two of your favorite tv show-whatever helps you to maintain your sanity.

Change your venue.

I know too well the lock yourself in your bedroom, hunch over your laptop, books, and notes, and grind it out mentality. It turns out that practice is probably not good study practice. Going to sit somewhere else, working in a coffee shop or the library, taking your laptop onto the porch for a while, changing positions, or otherwise changing your environment helps your brain distinguish what you are learning and make new connections. Even if your retention doesn’t statistically improve, it can be much better for your general outlook on life, while working around others working can help you focus and make you more productive.

Eat, drink, sleep.

Make sure you are getting proper sustenance and sleep. Read: a diet of power bars and coffee with two hours of sleep is grossly hurting your productivity. Take the time to eat and sleep well and you’ll be much more effective than if you pulled an all-nighter on Red Bull to try to cram in your notes. We’re all happier, more productive people when we get enough sleep.

Celebrate your accomplishments.

You may not realize it when you’re right in the thick of finals chaos, but you’re learning, creating, and doing great things, and you should be proud of them. Don’t forget to include them in your portfolio, share your new-found knowledge with others, and give yourself a pat on the back for making it through another semester.

Finally: Know yourself. What works for “everyone” might not work for you. Take a moment to think about what has helped you in the past and try to replicate it. The end of the semester can be hectic and draining, and can send even the most enthusiastic library school students into a slump. But with a little help, we can make it through the end-of-semester slump, and live to see another semester.

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