Photo of a student stretching under a tree while studying on Farrand Field.

Whether you feel ready or not, finals are coming quickly. As we settle back into our normal routines after spring break, it’s important to take care of ourselves so we can finish the semester well. Here are some ways you can practice self-care even in times of high stress.


Brush up on the basics

When life gets stressful it can be easy to forget to address our most basic needs. Take some time to reflect on what you need most throughout the day. Here are some examples you can use to get started.

Hunger

If you forget to eat, feel hungry throughout the day or struggle with grogginess, it may be a good idea to pack some snacks with you when you come to campus. You may also want to carry a water bottle and set reminders to eat and stay hydrated. This will reduce the chances that you forget or simply put it off.

Sleep

Do your best to avoid pulling all-nighters when preparing for finals. Instead, try to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Adequate sleep helps encode memories, which can help you more easily remember what you studied during the exam. If you’re feeling tired during the day, you can take a quick 20-minute nap without affecting your nighttime sleep schedule. Avoiding caffeinated beverages later in the day can also help you sleep more soundly at night.

Movement

Staying active and moving our bodies not only helps promote physical health, but it can also be a great way to relieve stress. Make time for movement by taking a walk outside, stretching, going to the Rec Center or playing a game with friends on Farrand Field. Don’t worry, you don’t have to commit to a full workout. 10 to 15 minutes of activity is a good starting point. 

Socializing

Whether you consider yourself to be an introvert or extrovert, socializing and spending time with people you care about is important for your mental health. Try to schedule time with friends each week, even if it’s a brief coffee break or a short walk across campus together. Remind your friends that even if you all feel overwhelmed, you can decompress together. 


Be ‘unproductive’

Pressure to perform well, meet expectations or reach certain milestones at the end of the semester can send us into overdrive when it comes to our productivity. However, being ‘unproductive’ has benefits, too. For instance, downtime can help us relieve stress, avoid burnout and better retain information. It can also help us become “unstuck” if we are having a hard time processing information or solving a problem. 

Try to carve out some time each day to do something completely unrelated to school, work, chores or other responsibilities. If you have an hour, great! If not, 15 to 20 minutes may feel more manageable right now. It can be helpful to come up with a list of activities you can do. For instance, you may want to read a book for pleasure, listen to a new podcast series, cook your favorite meal, visit a new hiking spot or enjoy a long bath to unwind. Keeping your list handy will help you easily choose activities without feeling even more overwhelmed.


Take a break from social media

Stress builds on stress. If you find yourself doom-scrolling, reading unpleasant news stories or focusing too much of your time on social media, it may be time to take a break (at least until finals are over). Try deleting social apps from your phone, turning off app notifications or simply moving your social apps off of your main home screen. 

While these tactics may help you feel less distracted while studying, it’s also important to remember that the benefits go beyond productivity. Instead of thinking about how much time you’ll gain, focus on the peace of mind you may experience by limiting the amount of time, energy or brain power you spend on social media every day.


Set healthy boundaries

The end of the semester is a critical time to be honest with yourself about what you can and can’t do. This may not be the best time to take on additional work or responsibilities beyond what you already have on your plate. If things come up, practice saying “no” and being protective of your physical, emotional and mental resources so you can keep the commitments you’ve already made to yourself and others. It’s also important to remind yourself that you’re doing the best you can with the resources, energy and time that you have.


Find a study spot

Being cooped up in your room studying can get old. Try to change up your scenery by testing out different study spots on campus. One way to narrow down your options is by asking yourself questions like:

  • Do you prefer to study solo or in groups?
  • Do you want to have snacks, drinks or vending options nearby?
  • Do you need an outlet?
  • Does your college or school offer study areas that require special access?
  • Do you need access to a printer?
  • What kind of noise level can you tolerate?

These questions can help you find a study spot that works best for you. Take your time to explore your options. Try to keep a few spots in mind in case one space runs out of room or becomes overcrowded closer to finals.


Change your scenery

Spending time outside can improve our mood, stress levels and overall mental health. Make time to study, play or socialize outside if possible. Just remember to practice sun safety by staying hydrated, wearing sunscreen (SPF 30 or more) and opting for a hat or sunglasses to protect your eyes from UV rays. 


Celebrate small victories

Allow yourself to bask in the glory of small victories. Whether you’ve been studying for one exam or several, it’s important to acknowledge the progress you’ve made. Here are a few ways you can celebrate:

  • Eat a nice dinner. Cook your favorite meal or order something special from your favorite local restaurant.
  • Take a day off. Give yourself a day off to relax and recharge, whether that means watching shows or movies or spending the day outside.
  • Do something for yourself. Congratulate yourself on your progress with a small treat, such as an extra special coffee order.
  • Practice gratitude. Take some time to express gratitude for those who helped you study or supported you through finals (including yourself!).

Reach out for support

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

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

Peer Wellness Coaching is a free service available to students to help them set and achieve wellness goals. Peer wellness coaches are familiar with a variety of topics, including stress, relationships, academics, self-care, sleep, finances and more.

Free Finals Week at The Rec

Stop by the Rec Center to enjoy free activities like ice skating, bouldering and fitness classes! 

Buff Boxes

Order a free Buff Box to get free health and wellness supplies delivered to your residence hall, including stress and sleep supplies, cold and flu supplies or safer sex supplies. Living off campus? You can also pick up free supplies at the Wellness Suite on the third floor of Wardenburg Health Center.

Disability Services

Disability Services provides academic and testing accommodations for students with disabilities, temporary medical conditions and other needs. They also offer free workshops that are open to all students.

Figueroa Wellness Suite

The Wellness Suite is a great place to rest and reset. Whether you need a nap, want to pick up free health and wellness supplies, or if you just want to find a quiet place to study, the Wellness Suite provides a relaxing environment for students.

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.

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.

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.