Sensing Finals

illustrated by: Sam Xu
illustrated by: Sam Xu

written by: Brittney Lu, Lifestyle Co-Editor

Three times a year — four, when including the masochistic need to take summer session to graduate on time — we undergo the horror that is finals week. This is it. The week whose shadow dreadfully looms over us. The week when hours spent studying are outnumbered by the hours spent procrastinating and praying. But instead of numbing ourselves into a miserable state of apathy, engage those senses to improve study capacity.

A Sight to See

Japanese philosophy, Konmari, is a strong proponent of minimalism. Author Marie Kondo of “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” suggests that clean, minimalistic spaces containing only happiness-inducing objects can spatially and idealistically promote a more proactive lifestyle. So de-stress by decluttering — create clean spaces to work and dispose of excessive items taking up desk room. But maybe you can’t get rid of all stress-inducing essentials; textbooks, notes and planners all play a role in the actual studying itself. Instead, in your newly minimal study space, maybe include a few tangible stress-reducing items to balance out the unsightly lecture slides you’re forced to look at. A photo of some pups or a small potted plant can help keep you motivated without being distracting. Couple this with some calming colors: While I gravitate towards pastel blues and greens, go with whatever aesthetically enticing pigment suits your fancy. Essentially, limit what is looked at, and keep your eyes on the things that incite proactivity, creativity and happiness — not Pepe the Frog memes. And if the study space you’ve curated is no longer cutting it, a change of scenery or catching the sunset on a study break might help.

Take A Listen

Studying doesn’t have to be audibly monotonous. Engage the ears in some soothing sounds. (Shameless plug: check out our other piece below, “Hear Me Out: Music and Studying” to get some Spotify study playlist recommendations.) Have to listen to podcasts for all those lectures you slept through? The Internet is an arguably beautiful place that contains sites solely dedicated to background noise that aim to create calming ambiances via sounds of soft rain, ocean waves or, simply enough, white noise. Play this in the background to balance the drone of that econ lecture you missed. Maybe you need some words of encouragement. Take a break and listen to a TED Talk (and maybe even learn a new, innovative approach to chemistry while you silently sob over organic chemistry) or call someone guaranteed to spit out some words of affirmation. And while I don’t necessarily recommend the “I’ll just play some TV in the background” idea, if that’s your ideal, I recommend Bob Ross instead of “The Bachelorette.”

All the Feels

In the medical field, the sensation garnered through touch is one of the most important facets of caregiving — it’s all at once humanizing and encouraging. And isn’t this exactly what we need during a week of death? But, like most things, touch can operate on a gradient. For those of us who believe wholly in the power of physical contact, then by all means, please go find a (platonic and consenting) study buddy to give an encouraging hug to. For those of us who, sure, might see the significance in touch, but stray more towards the introvert color of the rainbow, Therapy Fluffies at The Zone on Thursdays or The Cat Cafe might be a better bet. And for those of us who by no means have the capacity during this hellish week to be surrounded by any living thing, Target offers a wide range of comfortably soft blankets if we need the hug but not necessarily the human.

Brain Food

Feed the stomach, feed the soul. Warning: this does not mean substituting coffee for breakfast, stocking up on empty Fiber One Chewy Bar calories, storing up convenient sugar and fats or mistaking the sensation of taste with the black hole distraction of “Tasty” videos. Because no, making the deep-fried, bacon-wrapped cheeseburger might not be the best study break or study snack. Instead, nutritionists recommend small meals throughout the day to keep you, as Tony might say, “full and focused.” Try some antioxidant-filled berries, swapping out lattes with green tea or switching up Chicken McNuggets with salmon stocked with omega-3 (which is also supposedly helpful with memory). So put down that Reese’s cup and pick up a handful of almonds.

Catch a Whiff of This

Last but not least, give your nose a little love. Try out anything from Bath and Body Works’ aromatherapy line, or DIY essential oils. Use eucalyptus and spearmint to reduce stress, lavender and camomile while you nap or something citrus-y for energy. Replace the lingering scent of Tapioca Express chicken and sorrow that clings to you after a night spent at Geisel with a bath bomb or freshly washed sheets. Light a candle and let your study stresses melt away.

Sure, studying might be the worst byproduct of being a student. And while it’s become an integrated and unfortunately inevitable side effect of our student lifestyles, here’s to hoping Lifestyle can give some tips to alleviate the pain.

Hear Me Out: Music and Studying // written by: Annika Olives, Lifestyle Co-Editor

Head into Geisel for a last-minute cram, and, after scouring every table for a seat, you’ll find that a majority of your fellow classmates have headphones in their ears. Chances are that if it’s not a podcast, their heads are currently being filled with some Beyoncé, maybe some Bach, perhaps a bit of The Beatles.

Music is an incredibly important component of any young adult’s life, yet its role in the educational sphere is often debated. Does music affect studying ability?

Here’s what the research says.

The benefits: The most famous relationship between studying and music is the “Mozart effect.” This claims that listening to Mozart may lead to better spatial-temporal reasoning, potentially leading to higher test scores. Music may be a stress-reducer, and it is an incredible emotion setter — an upbeat song can put someone in a positive mood, making them more motivated.

The downfalls: Music can distract, especially when the listener is emotionally attached to what they’re hearing. Music may interfere with recall ability, like when you’re trying to memorize vocabulary or a list of numbers. Listening to music while reading may also limit comprehension. In general, numerous studies have found that people seem to perform tasks better in silence rather than with noise.

Here’s another take.

Everyone is different. Even if research can tell you that listening to hard rock while looking over your physics notes will keep you from memorizing Newton’s first, second and third laws, maybe hard rock helps you concentrate.

If you’ve tried it and it works, then keep doing it.

Personally, one of my high school teachers played smooth jazz during our statistics classes, so now I listen to jazz while I attempt my statistics problems. Calculus tends to frustrate me, so I’ve found that listening to classical piano or acoustic covers calms me down a little bit. But when I’m writing an essay, I prefer silence so I can hear myself read my sentences out loud and so a line from The Chainsmokers doesn’t end up in my paper about immigration and assimilation.

If your study routine feels a little lacking or you can’t seem to stay focused, play around with different types of music and see if anything helps. But if you seem to work best in the quiet, there’s no reason to change that.

Study style is something that varies from student to student, and there’s no formula on how to create a perfect setup. Music is one of those factors that can supplement or detract from an environment, but it all depends on personal preference.

Feel like adding a new beat to your study routine? Here are the Spotify playlists that are likely to get me through finals.   

Morning Tea: Wake up early to finish some homework you should’ve done last night? This playlist of mellow tunes will ease you into your day without (too much) pain.  

Soft Pop Hits: Any pop-radio lover would love to sing along to this playlist.

Coffee Table Jazz: My go-to playlist for statistics.

Your Favorite Coffeehouse or Coffeehouse: If you can’t get to an actual cafe but like working in one, this can get the vibe pretty close.

Silk Sheets: An easygoing playlist for when you’re in the mood for some R&B or rap.


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