As the fall semester comes to an end and finals roll in, here are seven tips for managing stress and practising self-care

Between keeping safe during the global pandemic, reacting to social injustices, hours of online school and finishing up your last midterms and assignments, it can be easy to forget to reflect and check-in with yourself.

The looming pressure and worry about exams exacerbate these stressors. During these turbulent times, self-care and mental wellness may be the last item on your agenda. However, managing stress is critical for avoiding burnout and maintaining good mental health. Below are seven self-care tips to help bring more balance into your routine.

1. Develop a regular sleep schedule

This may be one of the most difficult goals to achieve for many students. Especially with online and asynchronous classes, you can quickly be derailed into a bad sleeping habit. You can track your sleep schedule using an app and set yourself up for success by limiting electronic use before bedtime, putting your screens into a nighttime mode in the evening and limiting caffeine intake

2. Eat regularly scheduled meals

Similar to maintaining a healthy sleep schedule, practicing a healthy diet is important for both your physical and mental health. Eat foods that give you energy and make you happy. Switch things up by sharing recipes with friends. 

3. Engage in non-academic activities

It may seem obvious, but many of us still need daily reminders to rest and unwind. You can go on a walk, exercise or take a nap. Give yourself opportunities to release some of the tension and stress and refuel your energy by doing activities you enjoy. 

4. Take time to reflect

Even if it’s once a week, think about at least one thing that went well and one thing that you wish to work on. You could pick up journaling, use a mood tracking app or discuss your thoughts and experiences with your friends and family. Going on walks can also give you some personal time for reflections. Through reflecting, you can take a break from thinking about school, realize achievements and strengths and gain insights to set new goals.

5. Find ways to connect with your community

According to The Health Mind Platter by clinical professor of psychiatry Daniel J. Siegel, connecting time is one of the factors that are essential for optimizing one’s mental well-being. It helps to reinforce relationships and reduce feelings of isolation. Try to identify the communities to which you belong and how to maintain an active membership. 

6. Reward yourself

We all deserve praise after enduring a difficult and challenging semester. Set plans and goals and reward yourself by taking a day off, treating yourself with a gift or engaging in other activities that you normally don’t have time to do. Having something to look forward to at the end of a busy week or exam season can motivate you and keep you on track. 

7. Reach out to peer support services if you need help

You can find resources through the Student Wellness Centre or reach out to one of the four peer support services offered by the MSU: MSU Maccess, Student Health Education Centre, Women + Gender Equity Network or Pride Community Centre.

Remember to also check in with your peers. Share how you are doing, what is going well, what you want to improve on and what you are looking forward to. It’s perfectly normal to ask for help and it can be comforting to have someone validate your feelings and experiences. 

Although self-care can look different for everyone, hopefully some of these tips have inspired you to develop your own self-care plan. We will all get through this semester together. Be proud of all the accomplishments you’ve made so far and always remember to be kind to yourself because taking care of your mental health is the most important homework.

Images courtesy of C/O Sarah Kilian, C/O Kinga Cichewicz, C/O Brooke Lark, C/O Arek Adeoye, C/O Pedro Araujo, C/O Afif Kusuma, C/O Seven Shooter and C/O Dustin Belt


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