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8 Tips for Practicing Self-Care During Finals

College students across the country are preparing for one of the most stressful times of the year — finals week. Trying to cram for the most important tests of the semester would be stressful for anyone, especially when an estimated 26 percent of college students have a diagnosable mental illness. This means self-care during exams is important.

We teamed up with Active Minds to ask our communities’ college students how they take care of themselves during finals week.

So if you’re worried about finals, take a breath. Here’s are some tips that might help:

1. Take advantage of the resources your school already has.

Chances are, your school already has some initiatives meant to help you destress during finals weeks. Whether it’s bringing puppies on the quad or any kind of free food, take advantage of what your school has to offer. Don’t get so pulled in by the books you forget you have resources a walking distance from your dorm.

“During my junior year the library had started a wellness week specifically for finals. They did stuff like holding mini library concerts, running yoga classes, bringing therapy dogs, having a pillow fort and having a destressing station with mini zen gardens and beautiful pages from adult coloring books. It was the coloring that really stuck with me, and in time I bought my own coloring book to destress.” — Isabelle Parker

2. Stick to your regular self-care routine.

Just because finals are coming up doesn’t mean you have to suddenly drop your regular routine — especially when it comes to self-care. If you have important parts of your wellness routine (working out, therapist appointment, re-filling your medication, etc.) stick to them.

“I have been stricter about going to yoga! On my worst days, it’s really difficult to make myself go, but I feel so much better after and it sets me up for a good week.” — Mariah Anderson

3. Don’t forget about your basic needs.

Even with finals coming up, you are still a human. A human who needs food, water, clothing, shelter and sleep. No test is worth depriving yourself of your basic human needs.

“Sleep seven hours a night and have three meals a day! It may sound like an easy thing to most, but this can be something that’s quite hard for me, especially when I’m stressed out.” — Rosie Howard

4. Take breaks. 

Know your brain and its limits. If you know you can only focus for one hour at at time, don’t torture yourself. Take whatever you have to do it divide it in small, manageable tasks. No one will benefit from you locking yourself in your room all day.

“Don’t lock yourself to your desk! Get out, take breaks and don’t fool yourself into thinking more work is always better. It’s not. It’s your brain and you have to nurture it.” — Erika Rusher

5. Take advantage of your school’s counseling center. 

Even if you’re not someone who goes to counseling regularly, if you’re feeling like extra stress is wearing you down, there is nothing wrong with trying to get an appointment to talk to someone.

“I take care of myself during this stressful time by recognizing that I need to take breaks and just do non-school related things for a little bit before going back to studying. I also utilize my school’s counseling center for additional emotional support during this time.” — Julianne Leow

6. Make sure you get accommodations if you need them. 

If you’re a student with a mental illness who gets accommodations through your school’s disability services, finals week isn’t an exception. Communicate with your teacher about what the expectations are, and keep the communication going as finals week approaches. Remember: No test is worth the decline of your mental health.

7. Hang out with an animal. 

Whether you have a pet, have a friend who has a pet or have a pet shelter near your home, hanging out with an animal (preferably of the friend/furry variety) is a great way to destress when your brain needs a break.

“I like meditation and snuggling with my dogs.” — Dani Hazelwood

8. Get coloring.

Active Minds member Alyse Ruriani (who’s also a Mighty contributor!) designed a great Stress Less Week theme coloring books pages you can download and print out for free. Coloring has been proven to reduce anxiety and promote mindfulness, and it could be just the distraction you need when its time for a break.

And lastly…