Mental Health Is… Caring for yourself | Health & Wellness Services

Linda D. Garrow

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!).

https://www.colorado.edu/health/mhi-caring-for-yourself

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