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Keeping a calendar is one of the best ways to practice self care, according to columnist Hannah McFadden.

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MOVE’s self-care guide: Taking a break has never been so important

With finals on the horizon, it’s important to take the time to focus on yourself.

By Hannah McFadden | April 20, 2017

Tags: Health

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Finals week may still be a few weeks away, but the anxiety is already here. Whether it’s making multiple last-ditch efforts to save your GPA or losing sleep over an upcoming project, stress is piling on and the feeling of slipping further and further away from sanity is growing. And just the thought of finals coming up could make anyone nauseous.

Now more than ever, it’s crucial to set aside time to recuperate and reevaluate mental health. Making time to relax is essential in order to head into all stress-inducing projects with a clear and level head. But what if there’s no time for adult coloring books, and taking a walk sounds pointless? Nevertheless, there still needs to be a way to clear away some stress and take a step back from pressures and worries, even if just for a few minutes.

Start by planning the exact time and date to use for self-care time. Think of it as making an appointment with yourself. It doesn’t need to be that long, but shoot for at least 15 minutes. Pick a day when the schedule isn’t too crazy, and go for a time when there isn’t much going on afterward. Get out a planner and write it down. Put it on the calendar on your phone and set an alarm. Do whatever you need to do to make sure this appointment won’t be forgotten. Writing it down will also keep it from being pushed back to another day.

Next, plan what to do in the self-care time. Don’t choose something just because it’s a stereotypical self-care activity. If you honestly hate adult coloring books, don’t force yourself to do one just because your best friend’s sister swears it’s the most soothing thing she’s ever done. The activity should be something that focuses on at least two of your five senses, and it should be something you enjoy doing anyway.

Face masks are a great option. Pick a mask that has a soothing aroma, like lavender or chocolate. Try and get a mud mask version instead of a peel-off. The slow drying process of a mud mask is a great feeling to focus on, and it avoids peeling off a mask, which can be painful and reverse the soothing effect of the mask. Face masks are especially great if you’re prone to stress acne. Another great option is to sip on tea. Focus on the taste and smell of it, and think of its heat warming you to the core and erasing tension.

At the time of the self-care “appointment,” go somewhere where you can be completely alone, with no roommates or other people to barge in or interrupt. It’s important to be able to create a safe and personal space to feel relaxed in. Set a phone alarm for however long the self-care activity should be, then set the phone as far away as possible and do not touch it until the alarm goes off. Unplugging during relaxation time so that you don’t get distracted by friends on social media and emails from your professors is critical. Trust me, they can wait for a few minutes.

Take in the time fully. Carry on with the self-care as if there is no time limit. Breathe deeply and feel every emotion that arises while doing the activity chosen. It’s important to address all underlying feelings now in this set aside time so that they don’t become overwhelming.

At the end of the self-care time, think of one thing in the coming week to look forward to. It’ll help to keep a positive mindset when reentering the daily routine. And of course, schedule another self-care time whenever it’s needed.

Edited by Katherine White | kwhite@themaneater.com

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