This semester challenged students like no other — juggling schoolwork and unprecedented obstacles amid a pandemic is not a simple task. If you’ve been having a difficult time concentrating, low on motivation or in a state of distraction, you aren’t alone.

Despite all this, the fall semester’s finish line is in sight, and we’re here to help you get there. Here are some tips and resources available at MSU to help you manage stress and mental health and ensure you finish strong.

Maintain community and social connection

Making the effort to stay in touch and spending some time with people you care about is a great mood booster. Surround yourself — virtually — with optimistic people and motivating thoughts. Listen to a podcast that inspires you. Arrange a Zoom meeting with some friends to hold a study session or just to catch up!

You can tap into what’s going on virtually at MSU through the University Activities Board, Council of Graduate Students and other student organizations that offer a variety of virtual social activities, like trivia or seasonal craft nights. The Broad Full-Time MBA program also holds weekly Zoom meetings for students interested in connecting with current MBA students. These resources are a fun yet safe way to stay connected while away from campus.

Don’t forget self-care

Allocate time to rest and do activities you enjoy, no matter how busy you get. Engaging in hobbies that rejuvenate your mind will help increase your productivity when it’s time to focus and study. Read a book. Meditate. Re-create a painting from Pinterest. Enjoy an at-home spa day. Put on your mask and take a walk along the Red Cedar, around campus or at a park near you. These small acts of kindness for yourself may seem insignificant but can work wonders when you’re trying to alleviate stress.

The MSU community offers many resources for students to unwind, including virtual outreach podcasts and videos that touch on topics such as gratitude, coping with COVID-19 and mindfulness, and you can listen or watch when you need some advice. CAPS Connect, a consultation-based service for MSU students aimed at reaching historically underrepresented groups, is also a place to talk about your concerns and receive support.

Physical health is important too

Here’s your reminder to try your best to eat healthy foods, get a good amount of sleep, dedicate some time to unplug from technology and get some exercise in. Each will lower your stress levels, help you better regulate your emotions and improve your sleep.

If you’re in search of a workout buddy, UAB offers “Spartan Strong,” a free virtual workout class with MSU Recreational Sports and Fitness Services, every Tuesday. There are also online memberships to group fitness classes via Zoom, and they’re available on demand with over 1,000 classes to choose from.

Change it up

When your week is filled with the same tasks — sitting in front of your laptop screen and studying at a desk for hours at a time — your days become monotonous and draining. Incorporate small things to look forward to throughout the day: Get a change of scenery and work from a new place in your home if possible. Take breaks to do some stretching or a midday walk. Cook your favorite meal or try a new recipe. Designate time at night to call a friend. Giving yourself small incentives like these can help boost your motivation.

Use our new Broad Virtual Study Spaces to give you a Zen environment to focus on finals and get in the zone. Enjoy four spaces — study alcove, Menear Lounge, Walters Lounge and team room — around the Minskoff Pavilion through this playlist.

Proactively manage your stress threshold

The end of the semester means multiple final project deadlines coming up, plus papers, presentations and final exams. It can be hard to keep track of everything going on, and it’s only natural to feel overwhelmed. Make a checklist of daily tasks to help you stay organized. Checking off tasks as you complete them can also help you visually see your accomplishments. Plan ahead, but in moderation — your future self will thank you for being proactive if your goals are realistic so you’re not overworking yourself.

Need some guidance as you plan ahead? Campus advising and mentoring services are an ideal place to reach out to. Consider scheduling an advising appointment with your Broad advisor, or take advantage of call-in advising.

Seek support when you need it

Relying on a trusted friend to relieve minor stress is a great outlet. Additional support outside of your personal relationships is valuable, too.

Seeking help is a sign of strength, and MSU’s campus resources are always a place you can lean on. MSU has Counseling and Psychiatric Services available to all students. They currently provide a list of student resources, including screenings and self-assessments that are free, anonymous and online. The CAPS Counseling Line can also be easily reached at 517-355-8270.

Additionally, the MSU Psychological Clinic is currently accepting new clients and available for telehealth appointments. They offer a wide range of therapy and assessment services so you can discover what works best for you personally.

By implementing these small yet powerful ideas into your routine and utilizing campus resources available to our community, we hope you can takes steps to improve your mental health and reduce stress ahead of finals. Although we each have our own obstacles that come along with the pandemic, it’s important that we practice empathy and kindness to help one another cope. As Spartans, we have the capacity to live with compassion for others and make time for ourselves as well. Together, we will.