When you’re powering through finals week and feeling frazzled, it’s easy to lose track of even the basics — like, when did I last eat, sleep, or shower? You’re tired, cranky, irritable. We get it! But what if we told you there’s a way to take the edge off exam week?
Doing a little something nice and/or meaningful for yourself, and for those who matter to you, might be the last thing on your mind right now. But tapping into your emergency fund to bankroll a mini-indulgence (we’re talking $20 max; less if you’re creative) might be the answer to your need to feel calmer, happier, and more connected to the world outside the library walls.
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Here’s an expert’s take on why it’s important to step away every now and then, to acknowledge your support network as well as your own hard work: “When we’re there for others, we feel better about ourselves, and [we] connect with our generosity of spirit,” says Lois Barth, a human development expert, personal and business coach, and author of Courage to Sparkle. And while you’re cheering up your friends this semester, don’t forget about yourself! “Taking care of No. 1 is not an option, it’s an imperative. You’ll feel more relaxed and in a better frame of mind to ace your exams.”
Of course, you can always spring for a Starbucks or iTunes gift card — you can’t go wrong with those. But if you’re looking to get a bit more creative, here are 10 small splurges for yourself and for the VIPs of your social network.
1. Get googly
Bring on the giggles when your roommate opens the fridge and sees two wiggly eyes staring back from the milk carton … or the leftover pizza box. Plastic white-and-black googly eyes, sold at craft stores or online, are an inexpensive and fun way to peel-and-stick a laugh on to food items, notebooks, mugs, even smartphone cases. In case you didn’t know, the health effects of laughter are real. Laughing triggers the release of feel-good chemicals called endorphins, which help relieve stress, ease pain, even boost your immune system to ward off those nasty flu bugs making the rounds on campus.
2. Print out a meaningful photo
Consider gifting your significant other a print of a selfie you took together. Sure, you’ve shared tons of photos on Instagram, and you keep one as a screensaver on your phone. But it’s rare these days to have an IRL photo to admire. You can print your pic on a number of websites. A handmade frame (like this one, from an old book) will make the gift even more personal.
3. Plant one on yourself
Feeling blue? Think about adding some green to your room. Whether it’s a low-maintenance houseplant or some fresh flowers, studies show that those “flower power” hippies were on to something. Flowers and potted plants can help you feel less anxious and tired and generally in a better frame of mind. Floral scents also seem to put us in a better mood — and smelling the roses won’t leave you with a hangover.
4. Channel your inner artist
Listening to music is always therapeutic … but why not try your hand at writing lyrics to your own song? They can be serious or funny, heartfelt, or just about the joy you’ll feel after handing in your last term paper. Here are 10 tips from the pros to get you going. If you’d rather play DJ, put together a playlist for yourself or your friends, for workouts, study sessions, chilling out, or shower songs. Let the good tunes roll!
5. Create a custom door hanger
You know those “Do Not Disturb” door hangers that hotels have? Create one for yourself and your roommate so anyone coming by has a heads-up about what to expect (and a laugh). Your two-sided hanger can reflect two really different moods. Here are some options:
- Come on in — I’m caffeinated.
- I don’t snore, I dream I’m a motorcycle.
Craft your door sign out of cardboard or pre-cut foam board. Use markers or glue and glitter for the messages. Here’s a door-hanger template to get you going.
Or, get a T-shirt (or coffee mug) that says it all: Because sometimes T-shirts (and coffee cups) speak louder than words. If you and your squad are just too tired to talk, pull on a shirt that lets everyone know how you’re feeling. Check out Etsy to see which sentiment sounds about right:
- I just don’t think being an adult is gonna work for me.
- I speak fluent sarcasm.
- Please cancel my subscription to your issues.
6. Treat yourself to a mani
If there’s no walk-in salon nearby, you can add a little color to your life (and your digits) with a one-coat polish like Sally Hanson’s Insta-Dri. As Esmé S., a freshman at Occidental College in Los Angeles, points out, there’s an added bonus to taking 30 minutes to cut, file, and polish your nails: “I’m a lot less likely to bite them while I’m studying or taking an exam.”
7. Pin yourself
… or your bestie… or your significant other. Let this genius lapel pin serve as a reminder: Even the best brains deserve a little rest now and again. Perfect for the neuroscience or psych majors in your life. As one verified buyer put it: “I get passionately envied for it…. Also, I often easily get into conversations with people at meetings and conferences because of it. Great for networking — especially with the sometimes awkward scientist crowd!”
8. Cuddle with a corgi …
If you miss snuggling with the family pet back at home, you’re not alone. “Dog therapy” is increasingly popular at colleges, and your school might be one that brings community dogs onto campus during finals week to provide some much-needed cuddling and play time. Drop in for half an hour to throw a ball or give an ear rub in exchange for happy tail wags. Or if you’re friendly with a professor or staff member who owns animals, it’s worth asking whether they need help walking their dog, feeding their cats, or helping socialize their pet bird.
While you share the love with a furry (or feathered) friend, they’re helping to lower your blood pressure and boost your levels of the feel-good hormone oxytocin. Not a bad trade to make before you trudge to the library to hit the books.
9. … Or get a goldfish
Staring at the little swimmers works wonders on the central nervous system, as the Kimpton Hotel chain (which places bowls in the rooms at some of its properties) has found. “Goldfish are calming company and pets have the ability to lift our spirits,” explains Faith Yi, Kimpton’s senior manager for external communications. Of course, you’ll have to feed Goldie and clean his or her bowl weekly. But the chillaxing benefits may be worth the effort.
10. Break out a board game
Have you played Settlers of Catan? If not, you may want to order this board game, pronto. “It’s a mix of Monopoly and Risk, and I love gathering three or four of my friends to play after a day of studying,” says Rebecca B., a junior at Columbia University’s School of Engineering in New York City. Board games are a low-key way to socialize, and they can do wonders to keep you sane and connected to your friends.