Graphic by Liv Schanck

Finals week is a stressful time for everyone, and as we start the last week of classes it’s essential to allow yourself time to put yourself first. In a time filled with feelings of overwhelm and anxiety it’s more important than ever to make sure you’re managing your mental health.

Yes, it is easier said than done, but sometimes just a reminder to eat right, sleep well and stay active can make all the difference in being successful throughout your studying. Creating a schedule ahead of your finals week that gives you time to take breaks can also be useful in allowing yourself to feel good about not spending all your time studying.

Numerous studies demonstrate the benefits of taking breaks during studying. For example, a 2012 study conducted by Case Western Reserve University and Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital found that a daily 10- or 20-minute nap can significantly increase productivity and academic focus. This website is a useful resource in understanding how long you should nap based on what you are looking to achieve. For example, a 60-minute nap is ideal for memorization.

But there is also such a thing as an ineffective break. Taking a break to use social media is, you can probably guess, an ineffective break. In fact, it may make you more stressed. A study done by the Huffington Post found that people who used social networks were 14% more likely to characterize their lives as “somewhat stressful” compared to non-users.

On the other hand, an effective break could be physical activity. This doesn’t have to be a run or a trip to the gym; simply going out for a 30-minute walk can be helpful in reducing stress. A study done by Princeton University found that even 24 hours after you exercise, you are less prone to experiencing anxiety symptoms.

Another important thing to keep in mind during finals is your eating habits. During stressful times it’s easy to forget to eat, eat unhealthily or eat too much at once. But according to Sutter Health, poor eating habits during stressful times only make the stress worse. This website is a good resource for looking at which foods can give you energy as well as helping you think and function better. If you have access to the materials, give yourself a break to cook a healthy meal. Not only does it allow you to take yourself away from your work, but it also allows you to eat something that makes you feel good.

These studies are helpful in understanding the importance of taking breaks. But what is even more important is acknowledging and understanding what your body needs. Forcing yourself to keep studying when you are hungry is not a good use of your time. Stepping away and giving yourself time to focus on something that brings you joy will bring you more success, not only in your exams but also in your health.