Fighting “Grind Culture”: Prioritizing Wellness this Finals Season

Coming into college, I was shocked at how my classmates talked about studying like it was the most important thing in the universe. It was normal to hear about people studying instead of sleeping or studying through meals—just studying, studying, studying. With finals season rapidly approaching, it can be easy to get swept up in that chaos—crafting the perfect study playlist, late nights at Shapiro, and coffees from MDining cafes. 

Student bites on a pencil nervously as she studies on her computer.

This “grind culture” seems to be a quintessential part of the college experience. You almost feel left out when you’re not a part of it. We have created a sense of false urgency, where it feels like we need to be constantly working and pushing ourselves in order to be productive. I think we need to redefine what it really means to be productive. Isn’t self-care productive? Self-care is inherently sustainable because it prevents burn-out; in order to take care of our planet and our communities, we need to take care of ourselves.  

No matter the season, taking care of yourself should always be a priority. Taking care of yourself is also key to doing well on exams; you focus better when you are well-rested, both mentally and physically. As my second year of college comes to a close, I’ve thought a lot about how I can prioritize self-care during the end of the semester. I’ve come up with a list of what I consider my most important tips for wellness in finals season. This is by no means a complete list—wellness looks different for everyone! This is just what works for me.

  • Get 8 hours of sleep. This is cliche, but it’s cliche for a reason! It works! When you are well-rested, you are able to focus better and be more productive. Your body is not made to run on little sleep; give your body and your mind the rest it deserves! This helps prevent burn-out. Getting a good night’s sleep is always easier said than done, so I recommend turning off screens for an hour before bed. Put away your phone and your laptop, and develop a nightly routine; personally, I like to read before bed. It’s a nice way to relax at the end of a long day.
  • Snacks, snacks, and more snacks! Headed to the library for a long day of studying? Pack snacks! Keeping yourself nourished is key to staying focused and energized; plus, snack breaks are a great way to pause and refresh your brain. If you’re planning on a long study session, make sure to pack accordingly.
  • Build breaks into your schedule. If you’re a student, you likely have some way of scheduling your day through a planner or Google Calendar. My own Google Calendar outlines my classes and meetings for the day—what if it also outlined my wellness breaks? Working around a busy schedule can be tough, but wellness doesn’t need to be pushed to the side. It can be a part of that schedule, just as important as your classes. Class from 3-4? Add a wellness break from 4-5; you can go get dinner, read, catch up on a show you’ve been dying to watch, or take some time to reflect and relax. But that break is built into your schedule, and use that time to practice some self-care, in whatever form that may be. As classes end and we move into days of studying, your calendar is still a useful tool. Don’t build an entire day around studying—plan out study sessions and breaks throughout the day. 
  • Try out different study methods. When studying for long periods of time, add some variety to your study routine to keep yourself engaged. This can be flashcards, practice problems, using a whiteboard, etc. Not only does this keep you from burning out, but it’s also a great way to learn new material! Effective study habits are ones that keep your brain engaged, and the best way to do that is to give your brain the care it needs. So, see what works best for you and switch up the routine! 
  • Recognize when to walk away. This is the best advice I can give to any student. If you’ve ever studied for a long period of time, there always hits a point where you’re not really absorbing any information anymore. The lecture is on double speed, and you just want to get out of that library. This is your body telling you it’s done for the day. Listen to your body, and respect its needs. By forcing yourself to keep working, all you are doing is tiring yourself out more. When you seem to hit this immovable wall, it’s okay to walk away. Take a break, and get back to it once you feel refreshed. 

I wish you all a happy and wellness-filled finals season. Happy studying!