Final exam season can be stressful, but it doesn’t mean your recovery has to be
put in jeopardy. Get through it all with these tips.
As December descends upon us, those of us still in school are bogged down with final exams. Exam season can be an extremely stressful time, even for those of us who are generally well-organized and who keep up with schoolwork. For those of us simultaneously managing our recovery, finals season can prove even more challenging. Not only does it add yet another major stressor to your life, but those of us who struggle with eating disorders are also more likely to experience perfectionist qualities and other factors that make any stressful situation that much more difficult.
Despite the many challenges you might be facing with juggling finals season and managing your eating disorder recovery, this doesn’t mean your recovery is doomed. There are various strategies you can use to help buffer the stress and ultimately get you through the tough few weeks ahead.
Lean on Your Support System
None of us can get through recovery alone. Our support systems are essential for getting us through, and they are acutely important whenever extra stressors come into play. Whether it’s your parents, your teachers, your friends, your treatment team, or other trusted adults around you, make sure that you have a few people who you can go to when you’re in need of extra support. Having at least one safe haven can make the difference between feeling completely overwhelmed and knowing that you can weather the storm.
Ask for Help and Extra Time When Possible
If it’s at all possible, request extra time to complete final exams and assignments or other concessions that might be helpful to you during this stressful time. Professors and teachers all know that this time period can be tough for students, and they are usually accommodating to extenuating circumstances. If you need an extension, ask for it! It might feel difficult to ask for help, and it’s often more difficult for those of us who are really struggling. But asking for help doesn’t make you weak. It makes you strong.
Utilize Your Recovery Network
Make sure to check in frequently with your recovery-focused community. This might be a formal treatment team, or it could be your peers and friends who are also in recovery. In some cases, your recovery network might be online. Whatever the circumstances may be for you, don’t forget to utilize them during this high-stress final exam period. You might even want to add in some extra therapy sessions or support group meetings just to get you over the hump.
Be Honest with Those Around You
To the extent that you are able, be honest with those around you about what you’re struggling with. The more people around you are aware of the situation, the better they will be able to attend to your needs or notice when you’re struggling. Sometimes you might not be your own best advocate, but if others are aware of the stress you’re under and how that might negatively impact your recovery, they can be on the lookout for any red flags.
Be Honest with Yourself
Be realistic about your own expectations for yourself. Getting all A’s may not be a realistic goal for this final exam season if you’re new to recovery. Getting through finals season without feeling called to your eating disorder behaviors might not be realistic. Be honest about the difficulty of what you’re doing, and be gentle with yourself.
Remember that it’s Just One Semester
It’s just one semester; one test; one grade. Your entire future doesn’t hinge on one final exam. I know that it can sometimes feel that way, but it couldn’t be farther from the truth. Do your best, try your hardest, and know that you did the best that you could under the circumstances.
Remember that This Will Pass
Final exam season isn’t forever. Even if your recovery becomes compromised due to the high-stress nature of final exams, that doesn’t mean you’ve undone your hard-earned progress. This time period will end, and your stress levels will go back to baseline. If you need to regroup post-finals, then that’s what you need to do.
Recovery is always a challenge. When unexpected or additional stressors are added to our lives such as final exams, the difficulty of maintaining recovery can increase. Despite this fact, you don’t need to jeopardize your recovery to get through final exam season. If you are able to utilize your community resources, ask for help where you can, and be gentle and realistic with your own expectations, you can get through to the other side with your recovery intact.
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About the Author
Ashley M. Seruya is a social work student, virtual assistant, and content creator specializing in eating disorder recovery, Health at Every Size, and weight stigma. Learn more about her work at ashleymseruya.com or on her Instagram at @fatpositivetherapy.