Study after study has found that taking breaks and caring for ourselves makes us better and more effective at what we do. Yet when crunch time comes, taking a break seems like an impossible luxury. Here’s our finals-week gift from us to you: official, scientific permission to take a few minutes and treat yourself. If you need an idea, try one of these seven free and easy methods.


There are places in your town you’ve never been, and sights on campus you’ve never seen. Identify one new-to-you spot—whether that’s a museum, a hiking trail, or the site of a famous haunting—and go check it out. If you’re at a loss as to where to begin, consider playing tourist for the day, and pay a visit to your town or university’s visitor’s center. They’ll be able to point you toward the little-known sights worth your time.


You don’t have to shell out $85 for a mud mask to baby your body. Give yourself a manicure or make your own exfoliating sugar scrub or face mask (a quick online search should turn up plenty of recipes for masks using stuff you probably already have in the fridge). Dig out all those free samples from the bottom of the bathroom cabinet. Or, consider visiting a department store’s cosmetics counter, or your favorite beauty retailer, to stock up on samples of face masks, moisturizer, and more. At one major national chain, employees are encouraged to send shoppers home with samples, even if they don’t end up buying anything.


Think back to the last time you enjoyed dancing. Now find that song on the Internet, get up from your desk, press play, and let the rhythm take you away.


We don’t mean literally, but you could. Make snow angels. Build a bonfire. Lay in the grass and watch clouds go by. Get yourself out into the natural, primal world just for a few minutes. (Or, if weather forbids, cue up a good old-fashioned Yule log video and enjoy the crackles and pops of cheerful, simulated flames.)


Dip a hand in cool running water. Change into your softest, coziest pajamas. Dig out that fancy perfume or cologne you save for special occasions. Eat one really good piece of chocolate. Do something that takes you out of your head and into your body just for a moment.


It doesn’t have to be complicated or even good. You could spend a few minutes with a coloring book or baking a cake from a mix. You could arrange the food on your plate into a ridiculous face. You could write a limerick about how much you hate finals. The goal is to stop thinking and let your creativity flow—without applying any pressure.


Sometimes the best way to relieve tension is to let it rip. We’re not suggesting that you take a hammer to your roommate’s alarm clock, but you could shred a page of notes you no longer need, stomp on a sheet of bubble wrap, or make friends with the birds by crumbling a bunch of cookies on the sidewalk.