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10 tips for managing finals week

U counselors share tips for taking care of your mental health at the end of the semester—and beyond.

The University of Utah Counseling Center has increased medication services, expanded appointments to 6 p.m. on Tuesday/Wednesday and hired two additional counselors, all thanks to the efforts of student leaders and a new $4 Mental Health Fee.

Claudia Reyes and Jack D. Haden, the two new counselors, share some of their tips for taking care of your mental health at the end of the semester—and beyond.

For more tips and support, be sure to click here and follow the Counseling Center on Instagram @uofucounseling.

Manage stress in these 10 ways:

Progressive Muscle Relaxation

PMR is a mindfulness exercise where you tighten a muscle group—like your shoulders—for 5-10 seconds and then relax that tension away. Do this with slow, even breaths and progress down your body. For some people, visualizing the stress “flowing out” of their body helps them relax even more. PMR can help alleviate insomnia, stress and anxiety.

Getting outside

This can work wonders, even if you’re out for just a few minutes. Being outside on the grass, on a bench in the shade of a tree or even being bundled up watching the snow fall during a storm, it’s all beneficial. Being outside can increase your happiness, reduce inflammation, increase energy (you can’t help but feel alive), improve memory (also your attention span) and, oh yeah, relieve stress.

Talk nicely to yourself

Pay attention to how you talk to yourself (i.e., talk to yourself as you would a friend). If you find yourself saying negative things about yourself in your mind, try this simple trick: Say those same things out loud. Chances are when you hear them, you’ll notice just how irrational they are.

Do something creative

Draw, write, paint, dance, knit—anything that gets your creative mind working can help reduce stress and increase self-confidence.

Listen to a podcast

Here are a few of our favorite podcasts and podcasters on mindfulness, self-care and mental health: Tara Brach, “Conversation with Alanis Morissette,” “Mental Illness Happy Hour,” “Invisibilia” and the “TED Radio Hour.” For storytelling, you might like “The Moth,” “Myths & Legends,” “Fictional” and “Tanis and Rabbits.” These podcasts are geared toward audiences that are interested in LGBTQ+ topics: “Nancy,” “Gender Rebels” and “How to be a Girl.”

Follow mental health pages on social media

Add some positivity and mental health tips and reminders to your daily scroll. A few of our favorites on Facebook are: University of Utah Counseling Center (of course!), Power of Positivity and Melanin and Therapy. For Instagram, follow: @uofucounseling, @journey_to_wellness, @gottmaninstitute.


Adults need seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Not getting enough sleep can impact your mood and ability to concentrate.

Organize and develop a game plan

Use a planner or calendar to sort out exam dates, assignments or other important tasks (e.g., grocery shopping, club meetings, yoga class) that you need to make time for.  The act of writing it down—and color coding, if you’re so inclined—will make it feel more doable and may reduce anxiety.

Move your body

Exercising releases feel-good endorphins and can help quiet an overactive mind.

Stay fueled/hydrated

Make time to eat at least three meals a day and carry snacks with you throughout the day to keep your mind and body fueled. Don’t forget to drink plenty of water.

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Jack D. Haden, LCSW

[bs_col class=”col-sm-8″]Since I was young, I’ve had a deep passion for stories and people.  I hold the belief that all of us have a story to tell, but are often dissuaded from sharing it due to external and internal messages to withhold it. I’ve worked with a variety of groups including those on the autism spectrum, the LGBTQIA+ community and the geriatric population. Throughout my time as a clinician, I’ve repeatedly been amazed at the tales of resilience and bravery my clients have shared with me. As a therapist, I consider it a privilege to companion others, to find and share their stories and enjoy sitting with students as they navigate the challenges and joys of discovering who they are. I work from a feminist-multicultural standpoint, but have an integrative approach to my work with clients that include acceptance and commitment therapy, existential inquiry and cognitive behavioral work, with mindfulness practice sprinkled throughout.

On a personal level, I am a self-described “introvert supreme.” I find joy and rejuvenation in one-on-one dialogues with close friends, as well as in activities like yoga, writing and cuddling with my three cats while listening to a podcast. I’d be remiss if I didn’t have a book readily at hand—no matter where I find myself—and probably spend far too much money and time scouring the shelves of my local independent booksellers. As a kid who grew up playing piano competitively, music has a soft spot in my heart. I have a wide variety of musical interests ranging from classic punk to gypsy jazz to avant-garde rock and am always open to finding new and exciting artists. Last, but certainly not least, connecting with others who share a passion for social justice, as well as sarcastic irreverence, over a good cup of coffee is something I value greatly.[/bs_col]

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Claudia Reyes, LCSW

[bs_col class=”col-sm-8″]I am a licensed clinical social worker with a bachelor’s degree in social work with a minor in Chicana/o studies and a Master of Social Work, both from the University of Utah. I believe that everyone is the expert of their own experience and that my role in therapy is to help facilitate growth towards client directed goals. I practice therapy from a feminist multicultural foundation with integrated methods from cognitive behavioral therapy, solution focused therapy and motivational interviewing. To me, being a feminist multicultural practitioner allows me to acknowledge power differential in the therapeutic relationship and also being aware that social/political/cultural factors can be a source of empowerment and at the same time may be barriers to healing. I feel quite privileged to be joining the team at the University of Utah Counseling Center and have worked with students the past five years of my career with students from different walks of life at the elementary and secondary levels. I am passionate about education because higher education has been my own way out of poverty and did not come without challenges. I am a first-generation, Latina college graduate and at times throughout my educational career, I have identified as an out of state traditional student, a transfer student from a different university and a non-traditional student single parent. Through navigating these challenges, I was able to find resources and support through different centers and offices on campus that supported in ways that I was able to complete both of my degrees here at the U and I work daily to be a source of support for students that I have the privilege of serving.[/bs_col]