Finals: How to be supportive

Are you currently facing finals? Do you have a flatmate or course friend who’s struggling to manage their workload and stress levels? Are you the kind, caring family member / good friend / interested neighbour wanting to show your support? Here’s a quick post on 5 ways in which you can be supportive during their period of stress. Of course, I hope that this will apply to any intense times ahead but given finals is currently taking over my life, it’s all I can think about.

1) Read their dissertation

People spend hours and hours holed away in the library, researching and writing until they couldn’t see the page anymore. People spend days of their life learning about something incredibly specific, which often carries a scarily hefty weighting for their final year grade.

If you have some relevant subject knowledge – brilliant! You go, Glen Coco! Have a read and, if desired, don’t be afraid to make interesting comments. It might be something as simple as recognising your friend has referenced something with the common acronym without explaining it. You might be able to offer wise words on the structure of their argument or think of an important reference they haven’t yet name-dropped.

If you have absolutely no clue about this subject – fantastic! You’re useful too! You can offer fresh eyes to a piece of writing without needing to understand the nitty, gritty details. Don’t feel like lack of subject knowledge stops your proofreading skills being any less valuable. You can help someone understand their own argument a little better when forcing them to use layman’s terms.

Basically, it really matters to them. So, make sure it matters to you. Even showing interest can be a huge confidence boost (whether you read all those words or not).

2) Make note of their important deadlines & exam dates

My dear Grandparents, living in the world’s most remote village in Ireland, make note of my exam dates every year. On each difficult morning, they proceed to text me good luck and say a prayer for me in their church. Pretty adorable, right?

What matters is letting someone know that you’re aware of their deadlines. If all it takes is a quick ‘good luck for next week!’ comment, you are helping a lot more than you realise. My deadlines don’t mean you have to sulk around the house waiting to hear how dreadful the paper was, but offering that simple support does really help. Maybe text your friend afterwards to check they’re ok. Perhaps you could schedule in something nice to do when they finally finish. Help them see the light at the end of the tunnel!

Last week I received a beautiful bouquet of flowers from the Art girls who graduated last summer, to say good luck for my finals. The fact that they’d taken a moment to think of me, during their busy days doing actual real jobs, was beyond touching. I cried (obviously) and it truly cheered up my week. Let your friends know they’re not in this alone!

3) Stop saying ‘It will be over before you know it’…

If you choose to go to university, having difficult finals is a given. There’s no easy way around this unpleasant period but the last thing students want to hear right now is that their stress doesn’t matter. The average final year student will have already invested tens of thousands of pounds in this education, with intense (and slightly scary) competition for graduate jobs.

Hearing the following is not fun; Everyone struggles with finals / God, finals in my day were so much harder! / You should really enjoy this time at university before you enter the REAL world…

If you feel yourself about to make a comment like the above, please remember that stress affects people differently. No one thinks finals are a breeze. Don’t make someone feel like an inadequate student for expressing their feelings. Simply, stress isn’t a competition!

4) Don’t take it personally

I tend to be very vocal about my stress levels because I spent too many years trying to bottle it up and pretend it wasn’t affecting me. If you’ve had the lucky chance to run into me in the past few weeks, I probably didn’t stop talking about my finals and how much I wanted to burst into tears at any given moment. The positive outcome of this behaviour is that my support network of friends and family know how I’m feeling All The Time. (Apologies!)

If someone snaps at you or isn’t their usual, bubbly self – don’t take it personally! Everyone experiences times of tension or stress meaning we’re not our best selves. The lovely thing about friends and family is that you can be an absolute nightmare for a few weeks and they’ll still love you regardless because they understand this is an exceptional time in your life.

5) Check in with each other 

Simply be that friendly voice checking if someone’s eaten a proper meal today. Suggest a shower or nice hot bath. Make them a coffee, or nice herbal tea if they shouldn’t have any more caffeine for a while. Especially if you’re living together, it’s important to just check in on each other. As much as we should be checking our own mental health, it’s always worthwhile to look out for each other. I was overwhelmed with the positive response to my post on #SelfLove and the amount of people who messaged me to say it gave them a reality check about looking after themselves. This means that too many of you lovely lot aren’t necessarily remembering to give yourselves a break during this difficult semester!

I found living in Paris stressful for lots of different reasons and the academic life definitely wasn’t easy.  So, I felt prepared for my final year given I’d survived and thrived the biggest challenge of my life, I had a brilliant new work ethic and I was determined to be the best version of myself… So why am I finding this hard? I think what’s caught me off guard is that this stress is never-ending. I don’t feel like I can relax at all, I’m constantly tense and panicking that I’m not doing enough. I’m someone who normally works very well under-pressure, often producing my best essays last minute and I (previously) enjoyed that level of intensity. Now that this is my finals and I’ll have spent four years of my life on this, I’m basically psyching myself out of everything I do.

I do promise that some time in June, this blog will talk about something other than my final year studies. I will endeavour to find my personality again and I’ll have around 239406 Netflix episodes to catch up on. Who knows, perhaps I’ll start reading some French literature for fun. If you fancy reading a few thousand words on Suzanne Valadon and why she’s a pretty cool artist, give me a shout!

8 thoughts on “Finals: How to be supportive

  1. Great post. I feel like one of the most important thing is to accept that they might be struggling and not to invalidate that fact whilst at the same time encouraging them that they can do their best. x


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