Serentiy Room
Give meditation a try in the Serenity Room, located in Grays Basement.

Freshman or not, by now, we all know the painful truth about reading period. That sweet week of no classes is almost as much of a myth as grade inflation. Reading period is essentially the cram week of hell—a week of failed attempts to study, a few nights of actually studying out of desperation, with deadlines for papers and projects sprinkled in between. With all that’s going on, it can get so overwhelming that you find yourself suddenly having a breakdown in a corner of Lamont at 4 a.m.

The best way to prevent such a scenario is caring for yourself. Self-care is more important than ever during finals week, and good mental health can actually improve your work ethic, studying, and performance. Who would have thought, right? So push aside those practice problems for a minute, take a deep breath, and learn how you can optimize the precious hours of your reading period—without sacrificing your will to live.

Have at least one outing

It doesn’t matter how busy you are. There are 24 hours in a day, and during those seven days during reading period, you have time for at least one off-campus adventure with your friends. Even if it means simply having lunch in Boston with your blocking group, stepping out of the Harvard bubble can make you feel refreshed and realize that the world is bigger than one grade in an Ec course. You’ll come back to campus rejuvenated and ready to hit the books.

Have an indoor spa night

However rewarding city outings may be, self-care is best when your wallet is happy. Another option is to just spend a night in your room treating yourself. Take a hot shower, put on a face mask, play that episode on Netflix you’ve been meaning to watch, and just unwind for an hour or two. When you’re stressed and tired, your work performance and efficiency suffers as well. Taking some time to relax can actually save you time in the long run.


This is a quick, easy, and free way to treat yourself. Just download a meditation app and take a minute to breathe in….and out……..and out. Meditation can be a solo activity or done with a small group, but it’s a time for you to focus on nothing but yourself, your mind, and your body. With a clearer mind, you just might figure out how to solve that orgo problem.

Engage in artistic expression

Fear not: you don’t have to be an artistic prodigy to participate in making art. Whether it’s painting, doodling, journaling, or writing creative stories, funneling your emotions into a creative outlet is proven to be cathartic and rewarding. When you haven’t made progress on your final paper after five hours of staring at a blank screen, taking a break to freewrite or draw can stir the creative juices necessary to brainstorm ideas.

Whatever you choose to do, just remember that balance is key. A happy heart leads to a happy mind. Study hard, everyone, and godspeed. We’re almost there.