When finals season comes around, it usually comes like a pack of wolves in the night, taking you by surprise even though their howls have been growing closer by the day for a while now.
Most people can help but get in a bit of a tizzy when they realize how much work they have before them in the final few weeks of a semester, and the more stressed you are about what lies ahead, the easier it is to forget about taking care of yourself.
Here are 7 little ways to practice self care this finals season.
1. Go for a walk
Oftentimes, finals season can make you forget that there’s an entire world outside your door. When your to-do list pile starts to feel like a mountain that you have to climb OR ELSE, the natural reaction is probably that you just need to sit down and work until you physically can’t anymore. In actuality, though, it’s better to give yourself little breaks in the midst of all your hard work. Staring at a seemingly impossible pile of work day in and day out is exhausting. You need to take breaks. And what better way to take a break than to combine it with some fresh air?
A simple walk around the block is a bit of a triple threat in the world of self care during finals season. With it, you’ll get a much needed break from the definitions or equations or words you’ve been staring at for the past several hours, some exercise, and the oxygen straight from the leaves of trees. All of these combined together give you a fresh burst of energy that you probably weren’t even aware you needed. When you go back inside, you’ll feel ready to take on that mountain again.
2. Pet a dog
Okay, maybe don’t try this one if you’re severely allergic to dog fur. But if you happen to know someone with a hypoallergenic dog, don’t be afraid to reach out to them! Animals--dogs in particular--are spectacularly attuned to human emotions. If you’re feeling stressed about all of the work you still have to do, a dog (or another animal if you aren’t a fan!) might be just the self care you need to take your mind off things for a little bit and reboot your brain for the best paper you’ve written yet.
In addition to them being fantastic mood boosters with their floppy tongues and overall cuddly demeanors, dogs’ fur is actually the eighth wonder of the world--particularly when it comes to stress and anxiety. When you’re feeling stressed or anxious during finals season, one of the best ways to bring yourself out of those negative feelings is to find a way to ground yourself. And one of the best grounding techniques for many people comes in the form of texture.
Grounding techniques involve focusing on whatever it is you can immediately experience with your senses. A dog’s fur being as textured as it is could be just what you need to bring yourself out of any stress or anxiety you might be feeling about finals season. It’s really difficult to get work done when you’re struggling with your mental health, so if you need to take a step back and practice some self care by grounding yourself, that’s perfectly okay!
3. Take a nap
Believe it or not, you do need to sleep during finals season. Sometimes it might feel impossible, like you’re just gonna have to tough it out until you get your work done. But in truth, the less sleep you’re getting, the harder pressed you will be to actually put out the best work you possibly can. Sleep is what allows you to recharge, your brain to restore itself to full functionality, and your body to feel rested enough to move from your bed to your desk. (Let’s face it, no one gets any work done while lying in bed.) Sleep is self care.
That being said, we are fully aware that the pressure to get things done is sometimes too much to even fathom sleeping a full eight hours. Stress and anxiety about your finals can make it awfully difficult to actually fall asleep on some occasions. If you find yourself in this position--too exhausted to keep working but too anxious about all the work you need to get done to actually sleep a full sleep cycle, set a timer for yourself and settle in for a two or three hour nap. Any sleep is better than no sleep. And when you wake up, you’ll feel just refreshed enough to keep going when you wake up. Intermittent naps are a great way to practice self care during finals season.
4. Treat yourself to an at-home spa day
Whether you plan one as a way to relax and rejuvenate just before finals season, as a way to take a well-deserved break while you’re in the thick of it, or as a way to treat yourself when all is said and done, a spa day is a perfect way to practice some self care during finals season. Anyone who has survived at least one finals season knows exactly what it’s like. When you’re so focused on making it through all of your exams and final papers, it can be easy to forget some of the more basic elements of self care, such as taking consistent showers. (Gross, I know.)
But finals season might actually be the excuse you need to take your regular self care one step further. With an at-home spa kit, you can have the best of both worlds. You don’t actually have to leave your house to pamper, so if you really want to, you can keep up with your studying while you wait for your face mask to set or your nails to dry. Remember that it’s okay to take care of yourself during finals season, and we even encourage it!
5. Eat snacks
On the topic of neglecting yourself during finals season: you need to eat! Full meals can be tough to come by when you’re short on time and energy, but you still need to eat something. My recommendation is to eat plenty of snacks. Much like sleep, even a little bit of food is better than none at all. Food is brain power, so every little bit you can get will make your finals season go by that much more smoothly.
Snacks can be whatever you can get your hands on, but it will probably be more helpful to you in the long-run if you reach for something healthy. A bag of carrots and some hummus to dip them in is a great savory snack, and a bowl of fruit--especially berries--can be a quick way to give your brain a boost while you are studying. Regardless of what you pick up, though, remember to eat something. You need to actually have energy to be successful during finals season, and food is how we get that energy.
6. Call a friend
Despite some of the many rewards it can bring you in terms of learning and accomplishment, finals season can be incredibly isolating for some people. Especially if you’re studying something that requires a lot of independent work, it’s important to remind yourself that the rest of the world exists sometimes. One of the best ways to practice self care if you’re feeling a bit cut off from the rest of the world during finals season is to phone a friend!
Your friends want to talk to you, and chances are that if they're in a similar boat, they need that chat just as much as you do. If you find yourself missing human interaction while you’re in the throes of studying, call up a friend! Even better, ask them if they can do a video call, and it’ll almost be like they’re right there in the room with you. You can lament about all of the work eating up your time right now and then hopefully set up a date for you to meet up after you’ve turned in all your final assignments.
7. Declutter your workspace
This one can be tough if you’re someone who struggles with tidying in the first place, but it really does help you to be more clear-headed and efficient in your work. Clutter also tends to make our brains feel cluttered as well, and it sometimes serves as more of a distraction from the work we have to do than anything else. If you’re too distracted, you won’t be able to get your studying and writing and revising done in the time and to the degree that you would like to, which will really only put you under more stress. Sometimes, the best self care is something as simple as cleaning up the space around you to feel a little better.
To alleviate some of the further stress that can be brought on by clutter, then, take 10-15 minutes before you start and clean up the area around where you’ll be working. You don’t have to clean the whole room. If you’re working at a desk, for instance, put the materials you’re not working with at that time behind you or in drawers if you have them. Clear away stray papers and put all of your pens and pencils in a cup. The cleaner the space around you is, the more you will be able to focus on the work in front of you.
Despite all of the stress that lies ahead, finals week is completely manageable with a little self care. Whether it’s something as simple as remembering to eat or something a bit more deliberate, like planning a spa day for yourself, if you practice self care, you’ll come out of finals season feeling good and hopefully also having done well!