Photo of a flowering tree in front of Koelbel Hall with blue and green dots.

As we approach the middle of the semester, many of us may be experiencing high levels of stress. Spring break can provide us with a chance to practice self-care, find some relief and focus on ourselves. This may look different for everyone, whether you’re planning to spend time with family, take a trip or stay close to home. No matter what your plans are, here are some ways to take care of yourself and find your break.

Mid-year stress

What is ‘stress’?

Think of stress as your ‘fight or flight’ response. 

When you are facing demands, expectations or other pressures in life, stress helps our bodies kick into high gear. In fact, it can help us feel more motivated, focused and energized.

However, if you’re stressed out all of the time, it can also cause you to feel run down. Experiencing chronic stress can give us a good indication that something is ‘off’ in our lives. Taking some time over spring break to address stress can help us feel better when we return to campus to finish out the semester.

How to identify stress

Stress manifests in different ways for different people. Check out the examples below to see how stress may affect you. 

Physical signs

  • Aches or pains
  • Grinding teeth
  • Muscle tension
  • Weight fluctuation
  • Headaches
  • Tiredness
  • Constipation, diarrhea
  • Nausea, upset stomach
  • Changes in sleep

Psychological signs

  • Mood swings
  • Angry, frustrated, irritable
  • Lack of motivation
  • Teary
  • Feeling distracted
  • Memory lapses
  • Negative thinking
  • Worry, racing thoughts
  • Withdrawing socially

Other signs

  • No time for relaxation or pleasurable activities
  • Poor time management
  • Avoiding tasks, procrastination
  • Inability to concentrate or make simple decisions
  • Self-neglect, change in appearance or basic self-care

If you experience one or more of these symptoms, it may be time to make meaningful changes that can help reduce your stress.

 Note: If you or someone you know is experiencing a mental health crisis or needs urgent, same-day support, call 303-492-2277 to speak with a mental health provider. 

Tips for coping with stress

Prioritize harm reduction strategies

While alcohol and other substances can feel good in the moment, they don’t usually help when it comes to managing chronic stress. This is because substances tend to cover up or mask our feelings. While this can feel good in the moment, relying on substances for relief longer term can lead to additional stress or other issues.

If you choose to drink or use substances during this time, it’s important to take care of yourself. Here are some strategies you can use to stay safer and feel more in control over your night:

  • Stay hydrated by drinking water or switching between alcohol drinks and water
  • Avoid mixing alcohol and other substances, including prescription medications
  • Eat a snack before going out or while drinking
  • Make plans with friends and stick to them
  • Set a limit for yourself, enlist someone to help you stay accountable
  • Know the signs of alcohol poisoning and drug overdoses
  • Call for help in case of an emergency
  • Carry naloxone (available for free from the Wardenburg pharmacy)

Learn more about substance use and connect with resources

Get outside

Spring break is a great time to venture outside! Whether you enjoy walking, hiking, biking or snowshoeing, there are plenty of ways to enjoy the great outdoors. Just remember to keep these tips in mind:

  • Pack water. Higher elevation can cause you to become dehydrated more quickly. As a rule of thumb, drink at least one liter (32 oz.) of water every two hours while hiking. If you’re bringing a dog with you on the trail, be sure to pack extra water for them as well.
  • Wear sunscreen. Higher elevation can also increase your chances of a sunburn because there is less atmosphere to protect you against UV rays. Wear an SPF 30+ sunscreen and reapply every one or two hours while hiking. Hats and sunglasses can provide you with additional protection.
  • Check the weather. Look at the forecast before heading out, and keep in mind that weather in Colorado can change in an instant. Be prepared for less-than-ideal weather by dressing in layers. This will allow you to cool off when it gets hot and bundle up if it rains or gets colder at higher elevations.
  • Use the buddy system. Accidents are more common than you might think, so it’s a good idea to bring a buddy with you, especially if you’re spending time on less frequented trails. If you do decide to go it alone, tell someone where you’re going and how long you expect to be gone. Have a plan in place in case they don’t hear from you. That way if something does happen, they will be able to call for help.

If you want to improve your relationship with movement or find physical activities that interest you, Health and Wellness Services can help!

Learn tips and connect with resources for healthy movement

Connect with support resources

Whether you need to decompress from a long semester or find additional support, there are campus resources that can help.

Free events

St. Patrick's Week

Celebrate St. Patrick's Day all week long at the Rec Center with free events, activities and plenty of swag!

Staycation at The Rec

The Rec Center will be hosting free staycation activities, including entry for all Buff OneCard holders, ice skating, bouldering and an outdoor retreat with yoga and hiking.

Other events

The Division of Student Affairs offers hundreds of events, workshops and opportunities to get involved, meet fellow Buffs and have fun! Events range from DIY nights and fitness classes to career fairs and watch parties, so there’s something for everyone.

Support services

Health Promotion Programs

Health Promotion provides weekly events and workshops to help students learn more about self-care, stress management and additional resources.

They also provide free health supplies. Stop by the third floor of Wardenburg Health Center to pick up cold care, safer sex, sun care and other supplies.

Let’s Talk*

Let’s Talk is a free service where CU Boulder students can meet for an informal, brief and confidential consultation with a counselor. CAPS is offering Let’s Talk both in person and virtually.

*CAPS will have adjusted hours and services over spring break.


Join weekly workshops to develop coping skills related to stress, anxiety and other distressing emotions. Workshops are also available to help students live healthy, balanced lifestyles.

*CAPS will have adjusted hours and services over spring break.

Peer Wellness Coaching

Schedule a time to meet one-on-one with a trained peer wellness coach. Peer wellness coaches are familiar with a variety of issues college students face every day, including stress, relationships, time management, self-image, sleep, self-care, finances, goal setting and more. 

Crisis support

If you or someone you know needs urgent or same-day support, please call 303-492-2277 for 24/7 support. Calling ahead allows CAPS providers to triage your concerns and address them more quickly.

Free naloxone (Narcan)

Naloxone (brand name Narcan) can help temporarily reverse an opioid overdose. Free naloxone is available through:

Ask an Advocate

This free, drop-in service allows CU Boulder students, graduate students, staff and faculty to briefly connect virtually with a confidential advocate counselor to see if services from the Office of Victim Assistance would be helpful based on their experience.

Collegiate Recovery Center (CUCRC)

The CUCRC provides meetings and support groups, recovery-focused housing, events and activities, peer support and more for students in recovery or interested in pursuing recovery from drugs, alcohol, eating disorders, self-harm, other addictions and unwanted behaviors.

Medical Services

Medical Services specializes in college health and is available to all CU Boulder students, regardless of your insurance plan. Students can visit Medical Services for primary care, sexual and reproductive health, physical therapy, nutrition and more. If you're headed out of town, you can also call the 24/7 NurseLine at 303-492-5101 to connect with a registered nurse.