Photo of two girls preparing for finals with blue and green dots overlaying the image.

Whether it’s papers, presentations or exams coming up, finals can be demanding on our minds and bodies. As our schedules fill up and we bunker down for finals week, self-care may be one of the last things on our minds. Regardless of what your finals look like this semester, here are a few tips to help you make it 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 housemates. Take some time to talk through your schedule and expectations around finals.

For instance, you may need to hang a “do not disturb” sign on your door when you’re studying. If you use a common space, try to coordinate your schedules so everyone can study successfully and enjoy quality time together. This may also be a good time to review or create a living agreement to help you outline rules, expectations and get everyone on the same page.

Having roommate issues? Check out these tips and strategies to help you navigate disagreements and conflict with your roommates.

2. Take regular breaks

Pulling all-nighters and studying for hours on end can do more harm than good. As you plan out your study sessions, be sure to include breaks. Taking a step back can help us relieve stress and better retain information. If you’re not sure where to begin, give the Pomodoro method a try:

  • Set a timer for 25 minutes to focus on one task.
  • When the timer goes off, take a 5 minute break to walk around, grab a snack or chat with a friend.
  • Repeat this cycle three more times (25 minutes working, 5 minute breaks).
  • After you’ve completed all four rounds, take a 30-minute break to refresh.

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, grab a snack, connect with friends or simply give your brain a break.

3. Make time for joy

Studying and preparing for exams all day can leave us feeling drained. While it may feel counterintuitive, making time for activities outside of academics can actually improve our performance. Try to dedicate about 20 minutes in your schedule each day to focus on  activities that give you energy, peace or relieve stress. This could include grabbing coffee with a friend, going for a walk around the neighborhood, taking a nap or enjoying a long shower. 

4. Evaluate your expectations

We all want to do well during finals week. However, if you’re pressuring yourself to be perfect, it may hinder your ability to actually perform well. This is because stress often feeds off of unrealistic expectations and pressure. If you feel overwhelmed, talking to a friend can provide perspective and help you let go of things that may not be worth your mental energy. Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) counselors can also help provide insight and perspective through their Let’s Talk program. Let’s Talk allows students to briefly meet with a counselor for free on a drop-in basis in person or online.

5. Get back to basics

Sometimes, when we create self-care plans, we overthink it. If you’re struggling to keep up with the demands of finals week, try to focus on these self-care basics:

  • Bathe and shower regularly.
  • Take care of your teeth by brushing at least twice a day.
  • Stay hydrated and schedule time to eat regular meals or snacks.
  • Move your body by walking, stretching or doing another low-stress activity.
  • Set a consistent sleep schedule to ensure you’re getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night (if you’re still feeling tired, try taking a 15 to 20 minute nap during the day to give your brain some rest).

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

6. Avoid comparing stress

Stress feeds off of stress, especially around finals. During this time, it can become commonplace for people to talk about how little sleep they’re getting 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 negatively impact our mental health. In many cases, it sets the expectation that in order to be successful, we must sacrifice our own well-being in some way. Instead of comparing how much additional stress you’ve taken on in the name of 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 feels like everyone around us is doing okay. It’s important to remember that your friends, family, classmates and instructors all want you to succeed. If you’re not sure about expectations or need clarification on an assignment, reach out to your instructor or visit them during office hours. They will be able to provide you with more information to help you get started.

If you’re struggling to stay motivated or cope with stress and anxiety related to finals, consider reaching out to a close friend or family member. Let them know what you’re going through and how they can support you through this. Staying connected with loved ones is a key factor in managing stress and feeling supported.

8. Remember this is temporary

Doing the best you can isn’t about meeting expectations or avoiding failure. Putting energy into whatever situation you’re currently facing is a powerful skill, regardless of the outcome.

Remember this: Your grades are not a reflection of your value or self-worth. How you do on your exams won’t determine the rest of your life. Things may feel difficult right now, but you will get through it. The stress you’re feeling may be overwhelming, but it is temporary and it will pass.

Finals resources

For a full list of support resources, events, study spaces and tips for finals week, visit

Additional resources

Let’s Talk

Counseling and Psychiatric Services (CAPS) provides free drop-in services through Let’s Talk. Counselors are available in person and online to help provide insight, solutions and information about additional resources related to academics, stress, anxiety, substance use, relationships and more.

Peer Wellness Coaching

Meet one-on-one with a trained Peer Wellness Coach to set wellness goals and connect with campus resources. Coaches are available to help you create a plan to manage stress, time management, academics, sleep, relationships and more.

Disability Services

Disability Services is dedicated to providing students with disabilities an equal opportunity to participate in university programs, courses and activities through reasonable accommodations and services.


Join Medical Services for discounted community acupuncture. During these sessions, participants will be treated through auricular (ear) acupuncture. Participants can choose between traditional needles or ear seeds. This treatment is best for reducing stress, anxiety, depression, pain and improving sleep and mental focus. Appointments available online.

Free Finals Week at The Rec

Take a break, relieve stress and blow off some steam at The Rec. Enjoy free fitness classes, ice skating and bouldering during finals week from Dec. 10 to Dec. 15. Meeting rooms will also be available as study spaces. *Must be a Rec Center member. 

More finals events

Check out all available events taking place for finals week, including Late Night Breakfast, grab-n-go stations, self-care activities and more. Events are free to all CU Boulder students.

Grade Replacement Program

This program allows degree-seeking undergrad and graduate students to retake a course in which they earned a low grade in an attempt to improve their cumulative GPA. 

Tutoring services

CU Boulder offers a wide variety of tutoring services. Some are specific to classes, departments or groups of students, while others are available campus-wide. Many of these services are free to use. If you aren’t sure where to begin, be sure to check your syllabus, and ask your professor or course assistant for help and referrals.

Writing Center

The Writing Center provides free one-to-one tutoring sessions with professionally trained writing consultants, individualized guidance and feedback, as well as time-saving skills for writing and presentation projects. The Writing Center is available to all CU Boulder undergrad and graduate students for free.