You’re a Human Being, Not a Human Studying: Five Self-Care Tips for Finals Week

Michal Loren
Michal Loren

Finals season is upon us. It’s an especially stressful time of year for students as we navigate through exams and papers to the end of the semester. As a senior in college, I know what it’s like to struggle to stay above water during finals, COVID-19 and all. Over the years, I’ve learned to put my well-being first and let go of some stress around academic performance. What works for me may not work for you, but here are some self-care tips I’ve learned in the process when navigating finals week:

  • Don’t Skip Out on Sleep: Sleep is so important, especially during finals season. It can be hard to convince yourself that you need rest when you have a major exam the next morning or a big deadline coming up, but your body and mind will thank you for it. Try to get enough sleep (for me, that means 7-8 hours) at night. It helps to be intentional about your sleep routine, too  – make time to shower, brush your teeth, put on pajamas, etc. – since it’ll improve your sleep quality. Better sleep = better academic performance but, more importantly, better sleep = better mental and physical well-being.
  • Nourish Your Body (And Mind!): It sounds basic, but try to eat balanced meals with some regularity. For me this means three meals a day, an afternoon snack, and a dessert (because we all deserve to eat joyously!). Often I find myself reaching for what’s easiest – mac and cheese, chick’n nuggets, cereal – and those foods are incredibly useful, but they don’t always make me feel great and give me the energy I need to focus. To help with this, I cook two big meals on the weekend so I have go-to, yummy, reheatable, veggie-packed options for lunch and dinner on stressful days. Like with sleep, nourishing food helps me feel well, which in turn helps me with my finals.
  • Move Your Body: This isn’t me telling you to follow a strict exercise regimen (that word can carry a lot of baggage for many of us). Movement can, though, be a physical outlet for stress and anxiety. Turn on a little music and have a dance party. If you enjoy the gym, go for it. If you want to be outside, run, walk, or wheel your way through your campus or a local park. Anything to help move energy and get those jitters out, even if it’s just for five minutes.
  • Find Your Best Time Management System: Sometimes, sitting down at my computer and looking at all the tasks I have ahead of me is intimidating. One trick I use to help me get started when the mountain of work feels impossible is setting a timer for five minutes. That’s it. Writing a whole paper is scary, but writing for just a few minutes or doing just a couple of minutes of research without thinking about the end goal is much less scary. This practice helps me get into a working headspace. I also like to use the Pomodoro method to enforce breaks while I’m working so I don’t feel like my brain is melting – you do you!
  • Be Gentle with Yourself: I know finals are stressful, school is hard, and the “real world” of grad school and finding a job is frightening. But before you are a student, you are a person. Honoring your physical and mental needs during this time doesn’t make you weak or lazy. It just means you care for yourself as the whole, wonderful being that you are.

It’s easy to say that your well-being should always come first, but it’s much harder to actually put that philosophy into practice. However, as I’m going into my seventh semester of college, I can promise that it’s more than worth a try, and these self-care tips are the perfect place to start this finals week. Your mind and body will be grateful you put yourself first, and that’s what matters most. Good luck, I’m rooting for you!