Refresh for Finals: RRR Week Tips

Berkeley sunset

During Reading/Review/Recitation (RRR) Week add a 4th "R" for Refresh.

Taking care of yourself and being prepared helps you do well at UC Berkeley!

Here are our top tips for RRR week:

  • Make a study plan/schedule -what, when, where, etc.
  • Take breaks, shift gears - Treat yourself in between study sessions to unwind and recharge.
  • Stay hydrated - Drinking water helps prevent dehydration, a condition that can cause unclear thinking, mood change, etc.
  • Eat regularly - When you nourish your body throughout the day, your energy levels remain constant to help power you through those study sessions. So stock up on easy/healthy snacks and meals.
  • Stretch and move your body - Get your body moving to reduce stress, reenergize, and refocus.
  • Schedule sleep and naps - Your brain needs time to consolidate everything you’ve learned into your memory. That’s where sleep comes in!
  • Stay positive and silence your inner critic - A healthier way to deal with stressful situations is to show yourself self-compassion.
  • Be realistic - There is only so much you can do to prepare. Do your best without hurting your mental or physical health.

Take a stretch break!

Managing Stress

Stress is a normal part of life, and can’t be avoided entirely, but it can be managed. Here are some strategies you can try: 

Identify sources of stress 

Take a moment to write down a list of the things that are stressing you out right now. Then, try to identify more specifically the way you are feeling about each of these items (overwhelmed, frustrated, anxious, worried, scattered, etc.) and how you are feeling in your body (wired, exhausted, tight muscles, short breaths, upset stomach, racing heart, etc.). Being curious and non-judgmental about your current situation creates greater self-awareness and prepares you to take steps to manage the situation.

Avoid unnecessary stress

There is so much to do at UC Berkeley that it can be challenging to set healthy boundaries and prioritize self-care. If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, that feeling is an invitation to evaluate how you are spending your time and energy and to consider which obligations, relationships, and activities are nourishing you and helping you, and which are not.  

Change the situation

If your stress is self-imposed, the good news is that you have the power to change the situation! For example, poor time management is a major stressor for many students, and time management skills can be learned. If relationships are a stressor, you can work on your communication skills. If perfectionism and negative self-talk are stressors, you can work on self-compassion. Of course, making a change isn’t always easy. Get help if you need it! 

Change your perception

Sometimes you can’t change your situation, but you can change the way you perceive and feel about the situation, and that can relieve stress. Practicing gratitude is one proven way to increase your sense of well-being. At any moment you can pause and think about the things in your life that you are grateful for, and notice the changes you feel inside as a result. Another option is looking at the bigger picture. Will the things that are stressing you out right now matter to you in a year, or 5 years from now? If not, take a deep breath and let them go. 

Practice acceptance 

There may be stressors that you cannot quickly change or see in a more positive light. You can lessen your suffering by practicing acceptance of your current situation. Do accept your completely valid feelings, whatever they may be, but do not add to your suffering by avoiding the situation, judging yourself, trying to re-write the past, or trying to control that which cannot be controlled. Long-term change often begins with awareness and acceptance of the present moment.

Use coping techniques

  • Release: Don’t keep your stress bottled up. Talk to someone about it. Write about it. Let it out through movement. Turn it into music or art. Breathe it out. Have a good cry. 
  • Relax: Practice relaxation techniques or do relaxing activities like breathing exercises, guided meditation, yoga, etc.
  • Renew: Laugh/find humor. Spend time in nature. Get sunlight exposure. Drink water. Practice your favorite form of self-care.

Increase your resiliency

Taking good care of yourself will increase your ability to handle stress. Prioritize self-care and make space in your schedule for sleep, eating, exercise, relaxation, fun, and social connection. Practice self-compassion and positive self-talk. Get in the habit of asking yourself, “What am I feeling right now, and what do I need?” 

Seeking support

UC Berkeley students sometimes think that they are the only ones who are struggling, but everyone has their struggles. Sharing what you’re going through with others can be a tremendous relief, and you might be surprised by how well they can relate. If you are experiencing stress due to the effects of marginalization, oppression, and/or trauma, self-care is still important, but may not be enough. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your support network. Friends, family, mentors, spiritual leaders, community groups, roommates, and/or classmates may be able to lend a sympathetic ear or a helping hand. UC Berkeley also offers a variety of advising resources.  

If your efforts to manage your stress don’t seem to be helping, or you’d just like to have professional support, consider using the many services available to students at UHS (group counseling, health coaching, Let's Talk consultations, advice nurse, etc.).  

Remember: Stress management is an ongoing practice, not a one-time activity. Make it part of your routine for best results. 

TRY: Stop-Breathe-Reflect-Choose 

The next time you encounter a stressful situation, try these steps:

  • Stop what you are doing and the continuous flow of negative thoughts for a few seconds.
  • Breathe deeply, feeling your abdomen rise and fall, releasing any tension as you exhale. 
  • Reflect on what is going on. Is this truly a crisis? If so, will worrying and becoming tense help to solve it? Will this matter as much in a few weeks? Can you do anything productive to make this better? Ask yourself rational questions and listen to your rational answers.
  • Choose how you are going to react in a positive manner - a choice that serves you. Realize that you have the power to choose your actions in the face of stress. 

TRY: Relaxation Techniques

  • Take a breath! Try breathing exercises (Example of a few: belly breathing, square breathing, 4-7-8, etc.) Look online for guide videos.
  • 5-Minute Vacation: Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths, visualize a relaxing vacation spot, and let your imagination transport you there.
  • Laughing: Think of something funny that happened recently and laugh out loud.
  • Reconnect with your body: Progressive muscle relaxation, body scan meditation
  • Move your body: Yoga, tai chi, qi gong
  • Self-massage: Massage your shoulders. Get a back massager, etc. for problem areas.

Ways to relax at UC Berkeley

  • Use the massage chairs or take a nap at a REST zone.
  • Snuggle a pup at a Pet Hugs event
  • Wander around the UC Botanical Gardens (free entrance for students!)
  • Visit the Tilden meditation room at the Student Union
  • Attend group exercise, yoga, and meditation classes at RSF
  • Lounge outside and watch squirrels 

More ways to relax

  • Put on some music and have a dance party 
  • Listen to calming music
  • Drink herbal tea
  • Take a 20-minute nap
  • Walk or hike
  • Stretch or Yoga
  • Shower, bath, hot tub
  • Clean/organize
  • Find a good view
  • Arts and crafts
  • Spend time caring for pets and plants 


Study Skills & Procrastination 

Completing final exams comfortably and confidently requires practice, preparation, and effective skills, such as time management, realistic goal setting, and utilizing available support. 

If you’re overwhelmed by the size of a project or paper

  • Start by breaking the task into pieces, or sub-tasks.
  • Estimate how long it will take to accomplish each task (be generous!).
  • Look at your schedule and put tasks in your calendar where they will fit.
  • If you think you might need help or an extension, ask ASAP.
  • If a sub-task takes longer than expected, add another period to your schedule instead of assuming you can finish up at your next work period. 

Productivity Tips

  • Create specific and measurable goals. Instead of “I will work on my English paper,” say, “I will spend 50 minutes researching my topic.” Instead of “I will study for my quiz this week,” say, “I will study for the quiz Monday 10 am-11 am, Wednesday 1 pm-2 pm, and Thursday 10 am-11 am.
  • Don’t get derailed by technology: Decide when you will respond to messages. Turn off all unnecessary alerts. Use apps and browser extensions to limit internet site access if necessary.
  • Minimize multitasking: Give tasks your undivided attention. If something comes up while you’re working, ask yourself “Do I really need to do this right now?” If you’re worried you might forget to do it later, quickly write it down, and then get back to work.
  • If you find yourself thinking, “I’ll do it later,” get out your calendar and make a plan for when exactly “later” will be.
  • Choose your location wisely. Plan to work where you can focus best.

If you tend to study last minute or pull “all-nighters”

  • Schedule regular study times instead of long sessions right before exams.
  • Know that sleep is critical to memorization. Sleeping all night is best, but 20-minute naps can help. 

Get in the right mindset

  • Give yourself credit for your accomplishments. Cross items off your to-do list. Do something nice for yourself to celebrate.
  • Don't punish yourself or beat yourself up for not getting things done. Take care of yourself. Get help if you need it, and make a plan.
  • As soon as you get an assignment, add it to your to-do list.
  • Keep study materials with you so you can take advantage of unexpected opportunities to study.

TRY: The Pomodoro Technique

Looking to send your study productivity soaring? Look no further than the Pomodoro Study Method, the wildly popular time-management technique that will help you stay motivated, avoid distractions, stay focused, and get more done!

The Pomodoro Technique consists of the following steps:

  1. Choose a task to be accomplished.
  2. Set a timer for 25 minutes.
  3. Work on the task until the time is up.
  4. Take a 5-minute break.
  5. Repeat this 25/5 cycle four times, and then take a longer break at the end (15-30 mins). 

Campus Resources

Time Management

Scheduling Overview

  • Weekly:  Set aside 15-30 minutes each week to focus on your calendar and to-do lists.
  • Daily:  Check your schedule at a regular time each morning or evening.
  • Reminders:  Set up automated reminders via your online calendar, or leave yourself sticky notes to help you remember important tasks and events. 

Planning your Week

  • First, enter non-negotiable events into your calendar (work, classes, meetings, etc.)
  • Second, enter items from your prioritized to-do list.
  • Make sure to leave enough time between events for travel, self-care, and the unexpected.
  • Schedule challenging tasks for the time of day when you are most energized and focused.

Making a to-do list

  • Identify your priorities in life:  School, study, work, social time, and family time usually come to mind, but don’t forget self-care. This can include sleep, relaxation, food, exercise, fun, spiritual time, or whatever you need.
  • Identify action items:  Consider each of your priorities and identify actions that you would like to take during the week that reflect your priorities. (Some items on your list, like school, may have several subcategories.)
  • Give each action item a priority rating.
    • High priority: Must be accomplished this week.
    • Medium priority: Fairly important, but not critical.
    • Low priority: Would be nice to accomplish, but not very important.

Don’t over-plan 

If you find yourself feeling overwhelmed and overworked, make sure you’re scheduling breaks. Even a 5-minute walk, water, and/or stretch break can make a big difference. 

Don’t dismiss reminders

If you can’t attend to them when they pop up, reschedule them. If you get into the habit of ignoring reminders, they have no value. 

Always keep your calendar updated

Unexpected obligations and cancellations will come up. Make sure you update your schedule ASAP

Centralize your planning

Pick one method and stick to it: 1) Paper: Keep your planner with you at all times and keep your calendar and lists together in one place. 2) Electronic: Sync across all devices. Consider using one system, such as Google’s calendar, reminders, and tasks.