Tips for Self-Care during Finals Week

Woman in lotus yoga pose with eyes closed in a sunny meadow

With finals week just around the corner, it is hard not to feel overwhelmed.

Regardless of your situation, this semester has brought new and difficult challenges. You might have seen a slew of Instagram posts urging you to practice self-care, and while it may seem a little silly or pointless, practicing self-care during this time is critical. While the media likes to depict self-care as hot teas and bubble baths, the act of caring for yourself involves so much more; it is nurturing your body, mind and soul.

An important part of self-care is grounding yourself, which is especially important during a time like finals, when it is easy to get overwhelmed. Several students shared helpful tips for staying grounded during times of stress. For Anu Frempong, a fourth-year studying nutrition science, starting the day with reading and journaling as well as scheduling time for rest is critical to her success as a student as well as her overall well-being.

“I try to take breaks three times throughout the day, to just go outside on a walk or on a run or play my guitar. I love music, so playing guitar and writing music is a way for me to destress.” Frempong said.

For Kinley Haze, a sophomore studying horticultural science, taking time in the morning to step away from electronics and meditate or do yoga is an important part of her self-care routine.

“I also love to do skincare, so I do skincare in the morning and skincare at night, just to kind of relax and take time to myself.” Haze said.

Haze also emphasized the importance of incorporating physical activity into your daily routine.

“Taking a walk is also really important to your mental health, and taking a step back from everything, like your work and your studying,” Haze said. “At the end of the day, how you feel is going to reflect how you work and how you do on your exams.”

 For Madison Ruff, a senior studying environmental sciences, it is important to maintain the same self-care practices she usually does, even amidst the stress of finals.

“I am going to do my best to keep walking with my ladies and do it every weekday if possible, since I won’t have class then.” Ruff said.  “I am definitely going to keep reading my Bible and praying, cause when we are stressed is the last time God wants us to ignore Him; He has carried me through worse and I always feel better when I take time to be with Him.”

Ruff stressed that self-care doesn’t have to be anything big or fancy and can be something as small as “using that one cup that makes you feel fancy instead of the usual” or calling or texting that one friend you haven’t talked to in a while.”

 Your self-care routine may look like a series of perfectly curated photos, or it may look like staying in bed with sweatpants and earbuds in. Regardless of what self-care is for you, the most important thing is that it helps you become the best version of yourself. We have included some tips below to consider for your mental, physical, spiritual and professional well-being. 

Mental Health (Psychological and Emotional)

  • Do something you enjoy every day for at least 20 minutes (stream a show, listen to music, talk with a friend, go for a walk outside).  Whatever it is, do it every day.
  • Set realistic mini goals each day. Do not overwhelm yourself. Make a list of a few things that have to get done that day and do them. 
  • Set clear boundaries with people (this includes friends, significant others and family). Say “yes” to those things you can and want to do and say “no” to those things that will only stress you out and make you feel resentful. It is okay to say “no.” 
  • Ignore negative self-talk and only focus on positive self-talk. Acknowledge, then let those negative thoughts, where you question yourself and doubt your abilities, go. Try to focus on the positive thoughts where you validate yourself and acknowledge your strengths. 

Physical Health

  • Make sure to nourish your body with a variety of foods from all the food groups. If you are going in for a long study session, consider packing some snacks to take with you.
  • Say no diet culture — diets only harm your body. Food is fuel, and there are no “bad” foods.
  • If you are worried about your diet or have questions about nutrition, consider making an appointment with Nutrition Counseling at Student Health.
  • Move your body in a way that feels good and makes you feel rejuvenated and energized, but remember, you are not obligated to exercise.
  • Try TIP skills if you are experiencing acute stress or panic. The T is for temperature — try pressing an ice pack or a bag of frozen veggies on your forehead. This can help lower your heart rate and blood pressure. The I is for intense movement — try doing some jumping jacks or going for a short walk. The P is for pressure — try pushing on the wall or pressing your feet into the floor.

Spiritual Health

  • Set aside time to pray, meditate or engage in another spiritual practice if that is something you enjoy doing.
  • Listen to an inspirational podcast or something that makes you feel happy after you listen to it. 
  • Try to connect with others in your spiritual circle and talk to them (whether this means other members of your religious affiliation or members of your social group that you enjoy being around). 

Professional/Academic Health

  • Organize your study/work space in a way that works best for you. It does not have to be perfect. 
  • Create a tentative time schedule for each day. Even a general breakdown of what you are going to study/work on throughout the day is a good way to keep you on track. 
  • Set clear boundaries with colleagues, research team, classmates and professors. Only agree to do what you can accomplish in the time allotted.  You can politely decline what you cannot do (remember, it is okay to say no).  Do not put pressure on yourself to be the person who does everything. As soon as you start to resent a task, you are making the task toxic and that does not serve anyone, especially not you.

These tips are just suggestions. If you have a regimen that works for you, try to stick to it during finals week. Taking care of yourself is one of the best ways to navigate this busy and stressful time. Good luck!

April Smith is a graduate intern in the Women’s Center. Skye Sarac is an undergraduate intern in the Women’s Center.