NYU faculty, students, and staff share self-care strategies for the busiest time of the year.

Final projects and showcases. Papers to write (or grade!). Exams, exams, exams. And beyond the long hours at Bobst, don't forget packing, tidying up, and all those other fiddly little tasks that need to be taken care of before you skip town for winter break.

It all comes together to make that final crush between the Thanksgiving holiday and the end of the fall semester among the most hectic of the academic year—a time that can seem to race by in a blur of deadlines and year-end celebrations.

Especially for those of us living in a fast-paced city, the drive to optimize—to down another cup of coffee and try to wring some extra productivity out of each spare moment—can easily overpower the instinct toward self-care. But there's ample evidence to suggest that taking breaks actually makes us all more productive when we're busy, not to mention happier and healthier in the long run.

We all know this, and yet when we're frantic, it can be hard to figure out where to start. For suggestions, we asked members of the NYU community—students, faculty, and staff with varied interests and temperaments—to share their go-to strategies for combating stress. We hope this list will inspire you to perfect your own relaxation rituals to carry through the end of the year and beyond.

graphic: bridge

I like to take a break from whatever I am doing and go for a walk on the Brooklyn promenade. Just watching the Manhattan skyline while breathing fresh air and moving the blood in my body helps me to forget about all the stress and just focus on clearing my mind.  

—Mahmoud Abugharbieh, (Tandon '17), electrical and computer engineering (dual major)

graphic: checkmarked list

Whenever I feel overwhelmed with upcoming projects or stressed out about deadlines, I like to create a visual hard-copy calendar of all the events I have coming up in the week. After every day I make sure to list three things I did well that day. Sometimes it’s as small as me doing my laundry, but other days it’s about me getting a 100% on my essay! Knowing that all my small achievements will one day led to a bigger one helps alleviate my stress.

—Cashman Aiu, (Steinhardt '18), media, culture, and communication

graphic: flower symbol for yoga

I do yoga, often as a part of the NYU mindfulness program. It’s like an adult version of the kids’ game Simon Says—so, fun—that forces me to put all my electronic devices away for an hour or so and focus on my body and my breathing. Takes the edge off for a while after.

—Emily Balcetis, associate professor of psychology 

graphic: tv with play button on screen

My stress-relief regime: a combination of watching/listening to Bob Ross episodes (thanks, Netflix!), 10-minute meditations (my recent go-to app is called Meditation Studio), and reaching out to people I love just to tell them I'm thinking about them. Between the "happy trees," breathing, and thinking of those I love, it's a good start to being kinder to my mind and body.

—Cassandra Bizzaro, associate director, communications, NYU Stern Undergraduate College

graphic: running shoe

My go-to stress relief from the busy and hectic days of academic and family life is exercise. My first love is running, which takes me all over the city. My favorite short route for during the week is to run down the East River Greenway and over the Williamsburg Bridge. The view at night can be spectacular and provides some grounding of where we are and all the possibilities that exist in this great city!

—Ab Brody, assistant professor, Rory Meyers College of Nursing 

graphic: crotchet ball

My stress relief activity is crafting! I love to crochet and make jewelry. Not only does it allow you to take a break and do something that doesn't require much brain power, but you also have something to wear afterwards!

—Amanda Busta (CAS '17), psychology

graphic: earbuds

There is nothing like a walk around Washington Square Park with the soundtrack of Hamilton playing in my ears to send me to another place. Music is such a wonderful expression of artistry, and that is especially true for the incredible music of Hamilton. I'm sure passersby must be quite amused by the sight of me mouthing the words while throwing the occasional fist bump, but the result for me is renewed energy and fresh eyes on the world.

—Fabienne Doucet, associate professor and program leader, childhood education, Steinhardt

graphic: three trees along a hiking path

Hiking and mountain biking are my favorite ways to deal with the stress of work and grad school. Being outdoors and in nature can give you a big-picture perspective on life, which makes the things that stress you out seem much easier to conquer. If you don't have a car, Breakneck Ridge is a great hike about an hour's train ride from Grand Central Station, and from New Jersey, Harriman State Park can be reached by NJ Transit.

—Christopher C. Echeverria, senior policy analyst, NYU Government Affairs

graphic: four playing cards

I like to play Crazy Eights with my daughter.

—Katy Fleming, provost

graphic: puppy

For Gallatin staff, our most popular go-to stress relief is to have a puppy party at least once a year. The idea came when Gallatin threw a puppy party for its students and at one point more staff were in attendance than students! We realized then that there was a need for the staff to have a party on their own. It's a great distraction that gives us a chance to unwind and forget about the stresses of the workplace.

—Rachel Georges, administrative aide, Student Affairs Office, Gallatin

graphic: footsteps

I love my work as an artist, a director, a researcher, and a professor—in fact, I’m a bit obsessed with it. I have a lot of energy and am a fairly positive person, so I usually deal OK with stress. But balance is important to me; in fact it’s essential. How do I create balance? My husband and I have an awesome puppy named Barry who loves his weekly long walks in the park. Barry’s long walks have become an incredibly joyful, playful, and re-energizing space. He’s constantly discovering, listening, and playing—which reminds us to do the same. Long walks with my husband and Barry, daily meditation, and cooking (really good food) not only help with stress (I’m sure) but also—more importantly—create balance.

—Rubén Polendo, chair, Department of Drama, Tisch

graphic: meter maid car

Back in 2010, I read an article in the Wall Street Journal titled "How to Turn Heads on the Road: Buy a Meter-Maid Car," and less than a year later, I bought a 1997 Interceptor Go-4 "autocycle" (that's how they're classified by the DMV). While I know I look like a clown driving one of "our" cars, I don't care. Nothing beats the feeling of being able to wake up and zoom to, say, Red Hook, without having to plot out my subway ride or worry about how much a taxi or Uber would cost. I joke that I'll probably die getting t-boned in that tin can, but it will be with a smile on my face.

—Robin Sayers, editor, NYU Alumni Magazine

graphic: dancing human figure

To combat stress, I take quick 10-minute naps, dance tango, and eat almonds. The naps help me think clearly (because I sleep little at night and don't drink coffee). Tango combines the combinatorics of an improvised dance with the relaxation of being hugged while moving. Nuts are just fun to chew on.

—Dennis E. Shasha, professor of computer science

graphic: human figure meditating

Meditation: I've been a meditator for more than two years now, and I've found that the practice of sitting every day and just allowing myself to focus on my breathing and my present state of being has helped me learn to cope with stress in a healthier way than becoming frantic and panicked. Sometimes, though, I'm in a stressful situation, and I can't afford to sit down in the middle of, say, my Chinese class for half an hour and ignore everything happening around me, as most of us often can't in our lives. In these instances I find that simply stopping what I'm doing for a moment and focusing on a few breaths (just three or four) can help re-center me and bring me out of my stressed mind and into the present, which is often more calm than I imagine it to be. I find so much positivity in this simple practice, because it helps me realize that what is happening in my life is often not as horrible as I imagine it to be, and that knowledge helps me to remain more calm and to get all the things done that I need to without feeling incredibly anxious.

—Brian Young (CAS '17), metropolitan studies