Spoonie Survival Guide to Finals Week

There’s nothing more horrifying to a college student than finals. So what would a chronically ill student have to do to survive these dreaded times? My body can’t handle the extra sugar, caffeine, and junk food that everyone turns to for the extra boost, so I’ve had to figure out a different way to keep myself alert and focused enough to study and finish papers.

  • Drink plenty of water.

I’m probably going to profess this until the day I die. Water is ridiculously important when it comes to health. It definitely works better than caffeine with keeping you focused. Caffeine is a diuretic, which means it’ll dehydrate you like crazy. When you’re dehydrated, you’ll actually feel like you’re hungry. Weird, I know, but trust me on this. Mistaking thirst for hunger is a surprisingly common thing. Eventually, you’re going to be more focused on getting food than actually studying. If you’re concerned about low energy levels before finals, search out some B12 vitamins (it’s a healthier amount of what’s in Five Hour Energy shots). Start taking them a couple weeks before, so it’ll be in your system.

  • Naps

I’m so sad I never took advantage of naps when I was in kindergarten. I used to just lay there until nap time was over, since I was never tired. Now I feel like I’m making up for all of the ones I missed just in a semester. Unfortunately, I don’t have a dorm on campus, so I usually end up having to take a nap in a public place. Because of that, there are a couple pictures of me floating around in the world of me curled up on a couch somewhere to zonk out for a little bit. Here’s a picture to help you time out your naps. Click on it and it should open up bigger in another tab.


  • Sleep

Don’t even think about pulling an all-nighter. You don’t have enough spoons for that. It’s not worth it. You don’t have as much energy to waste like you used to. As a spoonie, you really have to be careful with managing your spoons in general, but finals is super important to watch over them. You can’t guarantee that you won’t end up crashing once you’re done. It may end up happening before. If you do have to stay up late, try to at least get 5 hours of sleep. I say at least 5 because I got only 4 before one final and the struggle was unbelievably real.

Also, if you’re confused why I’m talking about spoons, check out Christine Miserandino’s The Spoon Theory. It’s really informative with explaining the lower energy levels those with chronic illness have to deal with and how we manage our time based on it.

  • Take your vitamins

During this time of stress, your body is probably going haywire and your immune system probably can’t take much more of this. Vitamins will help you fight off the germs you encounter. I personally take regular gummy vitamins, but also extra ones like calcium, Vitamin D, B12, and biotin. Also, give yourself an extra boost by WASHING YOUR HANDS (seriously), avoiding sharing food and drinks with friends, and also avoiding your more contagiously ill friends. It’s nothing personal, it’s just business.

  • Wear comfortable clothes

Whenever my stomach is acting up, the first thing that happens is that I get bloated. I usually just make a joke on how it’s a food baby whose name changes constantly. I have a few pairs of jeans that can handle it, but they’re so worn out that they’re almost unwearable. I tried wearing a different pair of jeans, but it felt like they were cutting into me. It was super uncomfortable and hard to focus on anything else than wanting to change clothes. The days I had my finals, I just went ahead and hobo’d it. Sweatpants, Uggs, an old t-shirt, and a hoodie are the way to go. I have no one to impress anymore.

  • Pace yourself

This isn’t a race, it’s a marathon. You’ve got to make it to the end just like everyone else. I personally don’t have any sort of academic accommodations for my illness other than a brief e-mail of “Hey, if I ever run out of the classroom, it’s because I have a disease called ulcerative colitis and it causes me to have to make frequent bathroom trips. I promise that it’s not because I hate you” to my professors at the beginning of the semester. Luckily, I’ve never been in the position of needing to go to the bathroom urgently during a final/test (yet). That being said…

  • Go to the bathroom BEFORE your exam

You don’t need to go, you say? Well, you’re going to regret you said that 30 minutes into your final and there’s no escape. Pay attention to how your body’s doing that day and prepare yourself as needed. The extra water you’ve been drinking is probably affecting you.

  • Watch carefully what you eat

Like I said before, I haven’t had any urgent needs to run to the bathroom during a test yet. It’s because I always avoid eating anything risky the day before and the day of a test. I always have to avoid my house’s kitchen pantry during this time because it’s always weirdly stocked up with granola bars, seeds, mixed nuts, and trail mix. All of those cause me intestinal pain, not to mention wicked heartburn. I’m usually tempted to grab something from there since it’s so easy, but I have to stay strong and remind myself that the pain isn’t worth it. I also suggest this because I’ve always been slightly paranoid about not being allowed to go to the bathroom ever since this one kid in high school wasn’t allowed to go due to the risk of him cheating. Since I’m me, I could probably get away with it, but it’s not worth the risk in my book.

  • Relax

Breathe. It’s just a test. If you’ve prepared yourself well enough throughout the semester, there should be nothing to worry about. If it’s a cumulative final, think of it as a review of the year. I have the hardest time convincing this to myself. If you’re like me, stress is a huge trigger to flaring up. I’m pretty sure finals last semester actually made me end up in the hospital, because that’s where I ended up maybe two weeks later. The only reason why I say two weeks was because I was in a two week writing class at the beginning of the summer. Also whenever I stress out, I get the worst knots around my shoulders. That’s where I end up carrying a lot of my stress. I can’t give much advice on reducing stress because I still have trouble managing it.

  • Treat yo’self

Treat. Yo. Self. You’ve been working hard, so you deserve whatever you feel up to doing. Set up little rewards whenever you get finished with something. Try to avoid food rewards, even though it’s tempting. Let yourself stretch your legs or walk around to clear your head. I usually let myself play video games for a little bit. Maybe even find a dog to pet.

Say hello to Grace, a therapy dog that was on campus.
Say hello to Grace, a therapy dog that was on campus.

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