10 Quick Self-Care Ideas for Finals Week

Written by Erin Michel, Graduate Assistant for the Graduate College

A woman sits in bed drinking from a mug and reading a book.

Whew, we’ve made it! Another semester in the books—well, almost. While we might be done with classes, a lot of us are frantically finishing up final projects and cramming for exams. Juggling so many tasks (while planning summer vacations!) can take a toll, so it is important to remember to leave some time for self-care even if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Self-care can look a lot of different ways, both large and small, and even five minutes of intentional peace can do a lot of good for both your wellbeing and the quality of your work. Here are ten simple yet powerful self-care ideas to practice this week:

  1. Ten-minute power walk. Never underestimate the power of a brisk walk and some fresh air. It gets your blood circulating, focuses your mind, boosts your mood, and has a range of longer-term health benefits

  2. Advocate for yourself. Self-care isn’t all about chocolate and bubble baths (although they certainly don’t hurt). Sometimes when you feel like you don’t have enough time to do all the things you need to do, the answer is to get yourself more time or extra support.  Be honest with your professors and ask them for support in figuring out a solution, whether that’s an extension or some help narrowing down or defining a topic. The worst they can say is no!

  3. Guided mindfulness. All UC students get free premium access to the Calm App, which has fantastic guided meditation options as short as 1-2 minutes. Check out our Bearcat Guide to the Calm App article to learn more about Calm’s offerings and how you can sign up.

  4. Take a powernap. Odds are, if you’re cramming for finals, you’re not getting enough sleep. Luckily, the beautiful invention of napping exists to help us fill in the gaps. You’ll get more done in the long run if you allow yourself a bit of catch-up time than if you try to struggle through while sleepy. According to WebMD, twenty-minute power naps increase alertness and motor learning skills (such as typing) and contribute to better memory encoding. 

  5. Practice a minute of self-compassion. Especially when we’re stressed, we default to either ignoring how we feel or judging ourselves for it. When you catch yourself feeling stressed or irritable, take a second to notice and name that emotion, and tell yourself, “This is a hard situation, and it’s taking its toll. But I’m not alone in this, and I will get through it.” 

  6. Eat something you want. Intuitive eating means listening to your body and giving it what it wants and/or needs. While it’s important to make sure that you are getting vitamins and important macronutrients, sometimes your body wants/needs fat and sugar, and it’s good to indulge from time to time! Get yourself that ice cream sundae you’ve been craving, and don’t judge yourself for it.

  7. Do a crossword puzzle. Sometimes, when you’ve been looking at the same thing for hours, your brain needs a quick burst of fun to re-center itself. Crosswords are good for your brain, too—Harvard researchers found that daily crossword puzzles increases thinking and memory almost on level with FDA-approved memory enhancing medication.

  8. Stretch. When we’re in the midst of hard work, sometimes we don’t notice that we’ve been hunched over our laptops for hours and our muscles are screaming. Even five minutes of stretching can help you loosen up and prevent a lot of pain moving forward. Check out this article for a useful daily five-minute stretch routine!

  9. Drink water. Water is a key part of overall health and wellbeing, and many of us don’t get enough! The Mayo Clinic recommends 15.5 cups per day for men and 11.5 cups per day for women. When you’re busy, it’s very easy to forget. Take a minute to look away from your screen, and mindfully drink a glass of water. 

  10. Listen to some music. Music can engage the brain in unique ways and can level out negative emotions and stress. Take two minutes to dance along to your favorite song, or put on an upbeat feel-good playlist while you work.