The end of the semester is one of the busiest times for everyone in the world of higher education.
Students are stressed about finals, faculty are buried in papers and exams to grade, and administrators are busy finalizing plans for graduation and closing out the fiscal year.
At this hectic time, a little strategic self-care can go a long way toward cultivating calm in the face of a mounting workload.
Here are some easy and accessible self-care tips to help you feel physically and emotionally nourished at the end of the semester.
1. Move your body
Stretch your body, move away from your desk, go outside, or even do a few simple stretches in your chair.
Get the blood flowing and take your eyes away from the screen.
2. Step away from your inbox
In this busy season, vigilance with your email inbox practices can mean the difference between stress and focus.
Set clear boundaries around when you will (and won’t) check your email, and stick to them. A good technique some of us at IoF use is only checking during business hours: 9 am – 5 pm, Monday – Friday.
3. Take a social media break
One of the most straightforward ways to do this is to delete social media apps from your phone.
While this can also be a productivity hack, the point here is not to avoid social media in order to work more efficiently.
Rather, the goal is to step away from the constant barrage of news, information, and stimulus to give your mind and your heart a little break.
4. Be intentional about boundaries
Beyond email and social media, the end of the semester is a crucial time to be honest about what you can and can’t do.
This is not the time to take on more work or additional responsibilities beyond what is already on your plate.
Practice saying “no” and being protective of your physical, psychological, and emotional resources so you can wrap up the commitments you’ve already made.
5. Make a date
The end of the semester is an overwhelming time, and you won’t always have the opportunity or resources for a night out with friends. But community and communication are crucial to staying centered and healthy in stressful times.
If you can’t see friends, set a dedicated time for a virtual or in-person date, and reap the benefits of some quality time with loved ones who can support you when you need it.
6. Be “unproductive”
Carve out a chunk of time (a few hours if you can, 15–20 min if that’s all that’s feasible) each day to do something completely unrelated to any of your work or home responsibilities.
Try cracking open that novel you’ve been meaning to read, downloading a new podcast, cooking a healthy meal, or taking a long bath or shower to unwind.
7. Seek a change of scenery
Finding a work space where you can thrive is a vital part of creating a productive routine for your academic work.
But when you’re overwhelmed or facing a mental block, changing where you work can be a helpful refresher and a necessary reminder that there is a world beyond your desk.
8. Nourish your body
As the hours fly by, basic nourishment can easily fall by the wayside. In moments of high stress, it is crucial that you pause to eat, sleep, and move.
If you realistically don’t have the time or resources to cook fresh food for yourself, be sure at least to eat regularly. Set a timer every few hours if necessary.
9. Bookend your day
Being attentive to how you open and close your day can make a world of difference in your stress level.
Take time to get ready for bed, and to make sure you are fully awake and ready to start your day in the morning.
Be mindful; don’t simply rush through the small but nurturing rituals of washing your face and brushing your teeth or making a pot of coffee.
These activities can be helpful buffers for the day’s stressors.
10. Remind yourself of what you love
This time of year can make even the work we love feel like a chore. Even as you are grading, reading, or lesson-planning frantically, try to remember what you loved about these tasks in calmer times.
When you can, make a little time to practice them in a different context: write in a journal or in a different genre, read purely for pleasure, and connect with your most supportive colleagues and commiserate.
Good luck, you’ve got this!