Thanksgiving has ended, and the holiday season has begun. But with the wintery cheer comes the wintery fear: final exams. It's so easy to get caught up in the stress of studying and forget about all the other aspects of your life. But if there's one thing you shouldn't neglect during finals week other than work, it's YOU. I know we all care about our grades, but our bodies are more important, and it's important to remind ourselves of that. Make yourself a priority... and that's where self-care comes in. This list is by no means comprehensive,—self-care comes in so many forms, and there's really no wrong way to do it—but included are 10 ways I intend to practice self-care during and leading up to finals week.
1. Get Enough (or Close to Enough) Sleep
I know I know. Cliché. Seemingly-impossible. It's so easy to get wrapped up in studying (or procrastinating) that before you know it it's 5am, and you give up on sleep for the night completely. Instead of using those precious hours between 2am and 8am to cram in more studying that you won't likely remember, or watching yet another episode of that show, spend them snuggled up in bed under your favorite blanket. Those hours of shut-eye will help you more on you exam than any last-minute cramming probably will, and certainly more than Netflix will.
BONUS TIP: Naps are good too! Science says the "perfect nap" is 26 minutes long, and will help increase alertness. If you're continually dozing off while going over your readings, you're better off just lying down for a bit anyway, and then getting back to it.
2. Eat Brain Food...
Nourish your mind along with your body. Whole grains, fish, chicken, eggs, nuts, pumpkin seeds, beans, leafy greens, spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, asparagus, red peppers, blueberries, black currents, sage, olive oil... the list is endless, and certainly not bland or boring! And when oatmeal is as easy as ramen, it isn't too difficult either.
3. ...But also Eat Comfort Food
Studying can feel hellish as it is, but not rewarding yourself after a long session in the library is downright evil. Nourishing your soul is just as important as nourishing your body and mind, and sometimes that comes in the form of pizza, french fries, cookies, ice cream, chocolate, fancy holiday drinks, or whatever dessert the dining hall happens to have on hand. Indulge a little, and don't beat yourself up for it, especially if you're eating a lot of that aforementioned brain food as well. It is the holidays after all!
BONUS TIP: Looking for a compromise between brain food and comfort food? Dark chocolate's got you covered!
4. Drink Lots of Liquids
I'm talking about water and de-caf tea, and other low-sugar, low-calorie, low-caffeine options. I know we all need a few of those kinds of drinks to keep us going too, but staying hydrated with lots of water is so important all the time, and especially when our minds and bodies are on overdrive. Always seem to forget to drink enough water? Keep a refillable water bottle out and with you at all times to remind yourself to stay hydrated!
5. Exercise or Get Some Fresh Air
Give your mind a quick break and get the rest of you moving. Hit up the school gym, or if that's not your thing, just get outside for a quick walk, hike, jog, or bike ride. It will produce endorphins in your body which will make you feel happier, help keep you awake if all those readings are making you drowsy, and give you a productive reason to take a break. Plus, who doesn't feel better after a breath of crisp December air?!
It's an easy thing to push aside when you're swamped with studying, living in sweatpants, and not seeing much of anyone, but general hygiene is self-care too. You'll feel much better doing pretty much anything if your hair is clean and your body smells good. You can spare 15 minutes to relax in the hot water and not think about anything, I promise. Put on a couple of your favorite songs while you're at it! You'll feel much more refreshed and relaxed afterwards, and much more inclined to get back to work.
7. Get Some Much-Needed Human Interaction
When you're cooped up in your room all day in sweats, up to your neck in textbooks, readings, and notes, it can be hard to even think about hanging out with friends or going out. But even though everyone has so much to do, interaction with fellow human beings is so important! It can be quick and simple activities — ask a friend to get a meal with you in the dining hall, take a quick coffee break with someone, find a buddy to go on a walk with. If all else fails, even just hearing another voice can be helpful — call your mom, dad, grandparent, sibling, best friend, or anyone else whose voice makes you smile, and just chat for a few minutes. It's always relieving to remember you have people who love and support you, no matter what your exam grades are.
8. Take Breaks to do Things You Love
You're super busy during the semester, but you still find time to join groups or clubs, or otherwise do what you love. Don't let finals week be an exception! Whether it's playing an instrument, folding origami, baking, dancing, or whatever else, take some time to do that thing. Personally I like writing and reading for pleasure, and even though I'll be doing plenty of writing and reading during finals week, I know it's important for me to find time to sit down and write about what I want to write about, or curl up with a "Harry Potter" book for a few chapters. Finding time for what you love is always important, no matter how hectic studying gets.
9. Find Time for Yourself
"Me time" can be one of the hardest things to come by in college. At home, you could escape to your room, or even to the bathroom, but in college nothing seems private anymore. There always seems to be other people around. Make it a point to find time where you can be alone and with yourself during finals week, even if you're doing work during this time too. If you can, work out something with your roommate so you each have a little time alone in the room. If that's not possible, find a hiding spot in the library or somewhere else on campus, or escape off campus to a café or a bookstore, or somewhere else you can feel comfortably alone. And if you just can't seem to find the space and privacy you need, do the best you can, and bring along headphones. Sometimes listening to music alone, even if you're in the most crowded place, can make you feel like the only person in the room.
10. Don't Neglect Your Regular Self-Care Regimen
These are all good ideas for self-care, but no one knows you better than you do, which means you probably have a self-care routine tailored exactly to your needs. When you have so much else going on, it can be easy to push it off until later, and then never actually get to it. Schedule time in each of your days, no matter how busy, to take care of yourself. There is only one you, and nothing—not even final exams—is worth compromising your body over.
Now good luck on your exams, and don't forget to keep making yourself a priority!