Britt Fossum can’t sit still when there are things to stress about during finals season. So instead of spending her downtime curled up around a hot computer, she actually goes out and does stuff. No Netflix? No problem.
I worry about a lot of things during reading week. I worry about my health, my grades, and exams. Papers. Stress. Flu season. 20 pages for Slavic Cultures, two months of problem sets I haven’t looked over. I can’t afford to sink into inertia during finals season. I refuse to lurk underneath my covers with a computer and a box of sour patch kids washed down with a lukewarm coffee. Something about having deadlines looming before me at such proximity makes me unable to relax by doing nothing. The thought of Netflix marathons and Buzzfeed binges sets me on edge. I can’t justify wasting time when I already have so little to spare.
Do I spend all of reading week working? Certainly not. Ever since freshman year I pack up and leave campus for a day. Going out into the city or leaving the city entirely is a welcome reminder that not everything revolves around grades and Columbia. I need to get some fresh air and look at something besides a computer screen. It gives me downtime that is at least somewhat structured. Freshman year I somehow stumbled across Neil Gaiman and got him to sign my copy of “Seasons of Mists.” I’ve met up with out-of-town friends at MOMA and gone to a concert the day of my CC final exam. I’ll go to one of the random galleries I see tagged on my artsier friends’ instagram feeds, or re-visit the Dream House, or take on an extra babysitting gig. If the weather is nice, I try to take long walks. If the weather is cruddy, I take the train instead. So far this year I’ve gone on long runs in the rain, checked out a few art exhibits I’d been meaning to see, gone to Vermont for a snowy day in the mountains, and finished a take home final and two problem sets. Still to come: three finals, a friend’s semester concert, and a day spent at Midtown Comics catching up on all the releases I’ve missed in the last few months.
I spend all semester with a set daily routine: going to class, going to lab, and coming back to my room to study. It’s my office for better or for worse. Anything I do in my room besides work feels like wasting time. I can justify a day trip to Vermont as a welcome break from work, but a three hour Gilmore Girls marathon feels inexcusable. It has taken me years but I finally have some idea of how my brain works. I need to keep myself occupied when I am stressing out. I divide activities into two categories: kinetic and static. Static activities are activities that allow my mind to wander: watching movies or television, reading books that aren’t science fiction, even having long conversations with other people. If I try to sit down and mindlessly scroll through twitter I will start nervously obsessing over my assignments and stress myself out even more. I know from experience that I can’t distract myself by going to see a movie because my mind will be elsewhere the whole time. Kinetic activities don’t necessarily mean that my body is active–these are activities that are so mentally or physically taxing that I can’t think of anything else while doing them.
Thankfully, this category includes schoolwork. I spend most of finals week in a state of high activity and focus, but I also don’t want to burn out before I even make it to the final exam. I know that I can’t fully eliminate stress and so I redirect it into constructive channels.
Visiting London via Shutterstock