If you’re a college student, high school student, graduate student, teacher, parent of a student…. the end of the year is always a push. We’ve had spring break, there are no more breaks in sight until summer. We are tired, overwhelmed, and burnt out! And yet, there just seems to be more and more to do. Finals weeks, term projects, parties, all of it.
I get it. I’ve been there. These are the times when it feels like taking 30 minutes to go for a walk seems impossible, like literally. But here’s what I know about mental health, and for that matter, finding success during stressful times- the less time we have for taking care of ourselves, the more important the time we make for it is!
Here are some simple ideas to prioritize taking care of yourself during the end of this academic year.
Reach out to loved ones
Don’t be scared to reach out to those around you. They will be your biggest supporters and best shoulders to cry on. Your support system is important and they’re there to help you! Need solutions? Need to vent? Need help? Need a distraction/break? Use your words to tell them how they can support you best right now.
Exercise and move
Incorporating exercise into your daily routine is ideal, however, just getting up and doing a few stretches in between study sessions can be enough. Going outside for a walk or hike is also extremely beneficial, even if it is slow and steady, the physical and mental health benefits of walking away from your desk for a period of time and refocusing your mind to the outside world are immense.
Helps the immune system stay strong, and we definitely don’t want sickness getting in the way of your final weeks in a semester. Also, sleep reduces stress and can improve overall academic performance; all that studying that you spent so many hours doing can be for nothing if you don’t get enough sleep. Your memory will be less solid, and your irritability will skyrocket. Neither of which are helpful.
Carve out time for you
It may seem like you have a never-ending amount of work to do, but setting aside at least 20 minutes before bed that are all about you can be very beneficial to your mental and physical health. Meditation, yoga, journaling, skin care, reading, cooking, etc. are great options for your alone time. Whatever fills you up. And yes, I can get behind 20 minutes of scrolling on Tik Tok if that’s what refreshes you, but keep it to 20 minutes! Ha.
Try to keep a routine that best fits your schedule
A consistent routine will help you stay on track during a busy week of studying and the intense finals week. As a part of this routine, create boundaries for your work by setting specific times to check emails and study and specific times to spend with loved ones and yourself.
Be honest about your limits and what you can do
Accept that you will say no to some things as you prepare for finals. I promise, most of your friends and family will understand if you take the time to explain clearly.
Eat (and try to make it as nutritious as possible)
When we are completely swamped with work and studying, we may forget to eat or drink, (we may even decide that studying is more important), but it is important to keep your brain and body nourished, especially if you’re using it to study!
Find something to look forward to
Whether that is an entire trip or just a lunch date with friends, it can be helpful if you know what positive things will come after all of the studying and exams. Get pumped that a break is coming!
If you begin to doubt yourself or your decision to go to school, remember what brought you there in the first place. Look back to your first few years and remember why you chose your major and what lies ahead in the long-term. This can motivate you to continue even when you feel as if you can’t go on as you will see what the fruits of your efforts will be.
Make a to-do list
Making a to-do list with all of your future tasks broken down into more manageable pieces can be helpful to avoid being overwhelmed by your workload. This is especially true if you have many finals and are working to prepare for graduation!
Realistic amounts of time to study
There is no perfect amount of time to study each day, everyone is different in their abilities and stamina. Studying too much and for too long can decrease productivity! However, there are many different techniques that can help you study effectively. One that I have utilized the most is the pomodoro technique. In this study technique, you use a timer to break up your study time into actual study and a break. Most people either do 25 minutes of studying and a 5 minute break or 50 minutes of studying with a 10 minute break. These are just the most popular options, there are many more combinations out there to choose from. Go through this routine as many times as you want/need to. If you do reach some flow (which I think you might), ride it out and study for as long as you can stay focused. However, after 2 hours, I would definitely recommend taking a long break even if it is just stretching and getting a snack. Check out this article for more time management tips on how to study effectively (https://www.usa.edu/blog/time-management-techniques/).
You can do this. In fact, you probably already have! The end of the semester isn’t the time to learn all the things, it’s a time to demonstrate how much you already know. Deep breaths. One thing at a time. You can do this.
Samantha Morel, Ph.D.