Mental Health Is… Doing Your Best | Health and wellness services


Whether it’s for assignments, presentations or upcoming exams, finals can be demanding on our mind and body. As our schedules fill up and we rush into Finals week, self-care may be one of the last things on our minds. No matter what your finals look like this semester, here are some tips to help you get through the week.

1. Create and discuss boundaries

Whether you’re studying for finals or working on group projects, it can be helpful to set boundaries with your roommates. Take the time to discuss your schedule and expectations around the finals.

For example, you may need to hang a “do not disturb” sign on your door when you are studying. If you use a common space, try to coordinate your schedules so that everyone can study successfully and spend quality time together. It can also be a good time to revisit or create a living agreement to help you set the rules, expectations, and put everyone on the same page.

Do you have roommate problems? Check out these tips and strategies to help you overcome disagreements and conflicts with your roommates.

2. Take regular breaks

Spending sleepless nights and studying for hours on end can do more harm than good. When planning your study sessions, be sure to include breaks. Taking a step back can help us relieve stress and better retain information. If you don’t know where to start, try the Pomodoro Method:

  • Set a timer for 25 minutes to focus on a task.
  • When the stopwatch strikes, take a 5-minute break for a walk, a snack, or a chat with a friend.
  • Repeat this cycle three more times (25 minutes work, 5 minutes break).
  • After completing all four rounds, take a 30 minute break to cool off.

This study method is a great way to help you focus on one task at a time. It also has built-in breaks, so you can stay hydrated, have a snack, connect with friends, or just give your brain a break.

3. Take time for joy

Studying and preparing for exams all day can be tiring. While it may seem counterintuitive, taking time for activities outside of study can actually improve our performance. Try to spend about 20 minutes in your schedule each day doing activities that give you energy, peace, or stress. This might include having coffee with a friend, going for a walk around the neighborhood, taking a nap, or taking a long shower.

4. Evaluate your expectations

We all want to do well in the week of the finals. However, if you force yourself to be perfect, it can hamper your ability to perform well. Indeed, stress often feeds on unrealistic expectations and pressures. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, talking to a friend can give you perspective and help you let go of things that may not be worth your mental energy. Counselors from Psychiatric and Counseling Services (CAPS) can also help provide insight and perspective through their Let’s Talk program. Let’s Talk allows students to briefly meet with an advisor for free on a walk-in basis in person or online.

5. Getting back to basics

Sometimes when we create personal care plans we think about it too much. If you’re struggling to keep up with the demands of Finals Week, try focusing on these self-care basics:

  • Bathe and shower regularly.
  • Take care of your teeth by brushing at least twice a day.
  • Stay hydrated and make time to eat regular meals or snacks.
  • Get your body moving by walking, stretching, or doing some other low-stress activity.
  • Establish a consistent sleep schedule to make sure you get 7-9 hours of sleep every night (if you still feel tired, try taking a 15-20 minute nap during the day to give your brain some rest).

Focusing on these basic self-care tasks can help relieve stress and stay healthy through finals.

6. Avoid comparing stress

Stress feeds on stress, especially around finals. During this time, it may become common for people to talk about how little sleep they get or how many cups of coffee they need just to get through the day, among other sacrifices.

This type of comparison is often referred to as “stress bragging” and can have a negative impact on our mental health. In many cases, this defines the expectation that in order to be successful we must sacrifice our own well-being in one way or another. Instead of comparing the extra stress you’ve been through on behalf of the finals, work to prioritize self-care as part of your study plan and encourage others to do the same.

7. Ask for help

Asking for help can be difficult, especially if it seems like everyone around us is okay. It is important to remember that your friends, family, classmates, and instructors want to you succeed. If you are unsure of the expectations or need clarification on an assignment, contact or visit your instructor during office hours. They’ll be able to give you more information to get you started.

If you’re having trouble staying motivated or dealing with the stress and anxiety of finals, consider reaching out to a close friend or family member. Let them know what you are going through and how they can help you through this ordeal. Staying connected with loved ones is a key factor in dealing with stress and feeling supported.

8. Remember it’s temporary

Doing your best is not about meeting expectations or avoiding failure. Putting energy into any situation you are currently facing is a powerful skill, regardless of the outcome.

Remember this: your grades do not reflect your worth or self-esteem. How you pass your exams won’t determine the rest of your life. Things may seem difficult right now, but you will get there. The stress you feel can be overwhelming, but it is temporary and will pass.

Final resources

For a full list of support resources, events, study spaces, and tips for Finals week, visit colorado.edu/finals.

About Bradley J. Bridges

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