There’s a week left of school because let’s be honest, no one really counts finals week. It’s hard to believe the semester is just a week from being over. For some of us, that is great news, but for others, they could use an extra week or two. No matter if you’re completing your first semester here at ETSU or graduating in December, we’re all a little on edge. This semester has absolutely flown by, and whether that is good or bad I think we can all agree things can get pretty hectic this time of the year.

If you happen to be unfamiliar with what I mean by “hectic,” ask just about any student or faculty member. We are talking final exams, final grades, packing up the dorm or apartment to move home, job hunting, last minute extra credit, class scheduling, the holiday season, graduation and the list goes on and on. It can be quite the vicious cycle, and once you mentally enter this phase, it can be hard to take a break because one moment to yourself just seems to accumulate stress.

Dealing with stress in healthy ways is always important, and we always seem to discredit taking the time to make sure we are staying mentally healthy. Often it can feel impossible to deal with stress without accumulating some kind of guilt. For example, “I can’t I go to bed early or take a nap to feel re-energized because I could be studying or doing homework” or “I can’t take a break from my studies because I haven’t achieved that 4.0 GPA!”

Although I wouldn’t quite yet consider myself a seasoned student as a junior, I do have some tips you might find helpful coming from a fellow student in the coming week or two.

First, look at what the university is offering. It may seem obvious and cliché, but it’s something I have often overlooked. They post activities specifically for the end of the semester online and even in the bathrooms. Even if you don’t see a particular activity you would want to do with the school, perhaps it could spark some ideas for you to try on your own.

Secondly, find a dog. Use this article as an excuse to find a puppy or dog to run around with for a minute or even just to pet. The school brings by dogs during the end of the semester, so if you don’t have access to a pup at home, use the school’s!

OK, so maybe you aren’t a dog person for some strange reason, and maybe you don’t want to trek across campus in the cold for an animal, but never underestimate the effects animals can have on reducing stress. Not using the university’s dogs shouldn’t stop you from being with animals. Find a friend with an animal and make a date out of it or head to the local animal shelter and play with the homeless dogs and cats there. It’ll get you away from school and give shelter animals some love and attention.

Exercise. This third tip seems to be the one you always hear about and never do. The gym is an intimidating place, especially if you’ve put on some weight this semester or never stepped foot in a gym. I know how easily it can be to make excuses and at all costs evading exercise, but I have slowly realized how beneficial it can be and strongly encourage you to do the same.

The semester works itself into a routine of sleeping, eating, class and sleeping again, so even if you were once an active person or athlete, it can seem like it doesn’t take much to wind you these days. Exercise doesn’t mean intense workouts, and it took me a while to realize that. The smallest amount of exercise is beneficial and better than sitting around all day. If you’re not a gym person, avoid the gym and walk a few laps around campus, take the stairs or even do a push-up or two in your living room. These are all such little things that can increase your heart rate and help relieve stress.

Lastly, I encourage you to take that nap you’ve been contemplating. Don’t beat yourself up over relaxing and rebounding on some much-needed sleep. An hour nap is better than a mental break down over a reading quiz. Sleep is so important and is often sacrificed more often than it should be in college, and sometimes there are days where we will inevitably lose sleep. Don’t beat yourself up over a much-needed nap, because in the long run you’ll need it more than you think, and you will be thanking yourself later for it.

Mental health is so important to our well being, and like most things in life, we learn by experience and trial and error, so find what works for you in coping with stress. I encourage you to try some of the methods I’ve found helpful over the years and hope they will help you too. Do not get too bogged down as we enter the last week of school and just take a second to relax. Use the school, find a dog, take a walk and remember to nap.