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Breathe In, Breathe Out: Surviving Finals and Planning for the Summer

May 2, 2019

The spring semester is coming to a close, which means that summer break is almost here. We are sure that you are as excited as we are to take a break from the everyday routine of classes and assignments. While often not as demanding, the summer is an opportunity for many of us to move forward in our graduate education by taking extra classes, gaining practical or professional experience in our field, spending time writing our thesis or dissertation, and/or advancing our research skills. For the last post of the year, we want to share with you some techniques for de-stressing as the final exam period approaches and tips for having a productive, but relaxing, summer.

De-Stress before Finals

During finals week you can get stressed with extra study load and deadlines. It is important to know how you can overcome stress and be mindful of your concentration. Here are two favorite techniques to de-stress:

  1. Use Meditation as a Tool

Meditation re-energizes your body and mind, which can motivate you to go back and continue your studies. If you want to learn how to meditate, The Free Mindfulness Project is a great free source to download guided meditation exercises protected by common license. I like to take a break and meditate after a long day; it helps to mitigate the stress of consecutive final exams in same day.  Meditation encourages proper breathing practice, increases concentration, and reduces anxiety.  The MindSpas at Mason’s Fairfax campus and Arlington Campus have a wonderful set-up designed help with relaxation. Equipped with a massage chair, calming music, and soft lighting, the MindSpa is the perfect space to take a break and relax.  You must reserve your time in the MindSpa, so don’t forget to sign up using the links above.

  1. Exercise! Exercise! Exercise!

According to Healthline, “virtually any kind of exercise is a stress reliever.”  Take time from your busy day to do some regular exercise, such as taking a walk around the beautiful Mason campus. You can use any of the three highly equipped fitness centers at Fairfax: the Recreation and Athletic Complex, the Aquatic Fitness Center and Skyline Fitness Center. If you are at SciTech Campus in Manassas, check out the Freedom Aquatic & Fitness Center; visit the YMCA Arlington when around Arlington Campus. YMCA Arlington offers a discounted rate $2/visit to Mason students, discounted membership is also available. I personally like to go to the Aquatic Fitness Center (AFC) because it has a nice hot hub along with the gym. If you want to brainstorm alone and be productive while you unwind, the hot tub is a great place to do so.

Being Productive This Summer

Similar to meditation and exercise, being productive can help you remain stress-free and place you in a more positive mindset. While the following tips focus on summer productivity, they can be applied to any aspect of your life and can help you succeed at any stage of your graduate education.

  1. Set Goals

To start, it is important to set goals just as you would doing the fall or spring semester as it will help keep you on track. Think about what you’d like to accomplish this summer academically, professionally, and personally, and then break down your goals into priorities and action steps. Because your schedule is likely not as jam-packed, you can make time to work ahead so that you do not feel rushed or overwhelmed at the start of classes in August. This could mean working through your reading list or implementing more writing days during the week, which will help you stay focused and save time. You can also take this time to see what did and did not work in helping you accomplish your goals for the academic year. Based on this information, you can develop strategies to increase your academic success and maintain your well-being during the next academic year.[i]

  1. Enhance Your Knowledge

The summer is also the perfect time to explore topics and themes outside of your academic program. As scholars, we should always take advantage of opportunities not only to reinforce our current knowledge but to build upon it, as we should never stop learning. Whether you choose to watch a TED Talk, read a book not required for class, or go to a conference over the summer, it will help stimulate your brain and keep you engaged. More importantly, you will broaden your perspective and enhance your contributions to your program/field and the graduate community as a whole.[ii]

  1. Relax!

While school is important and should be prioritized, it should not stop you from making time for yourself. Summer is a chance for you to take a break from all of the studying and research that you have done and simply enjoy activities that you normally would not have time for during the academic year. Whether that means taking a trip to the beach with your family, curling up with your favorite novel, or binge watching Netflix (that’s okay, too!), you should do it.[iii]

Last but not least, we wish you all the best to finish the semester strong. Take care of your physical and mental health as you balance your academic and personal life. What you learn and experience at Mason may help you tackle stress in other aspects of your life outside of school work. For those of you graduating: CONGRATULATIONS! To everyone else: We hope you have a wonderful and productive summer and see you in the fall of 2019!


Arsad and Sydney

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[i] Elizabeth Koprowski, “Six Grad-School Tips for a Productive Summer Break,” MASTERSTUDIES.COM, last modified June 30, 2016, https://www.masterstudies.com/article/Six-Grad-School-Tips-for-a-Productive-Summer-Break/

[ii] Ida-Sofia, “Don’t Stop Learning: 5 Ways To Expand Your Knowledge After College,” elite daily, last modified Sept. 3, 2015, https://www.elitedaily.com/life/5-ways-to-learn-after-college/1199154

[iii] Koprowski.