Want an excuse to go get a massage, turn off your computer and go hang out with family? Well, you’ve got one. I’m giving you full dispensation to slow down, turn off and tune out. The reason? Post-semester stress syndrome (PSSS).

Granted, there is no acronym for the syndrome; I made that part up. But there really is truth to the fact that when you finish a school semester, you have a period where your stress can go sky high. And you’ve got to do something to reduce that stress — especially before another semester gets started.

So what causes this stress? The obvious reasons are: exams, end-of-the-year papers and other big finals that combine with the holidays and family. Students are thinking about how they’ll get all of this done within a relatively short period of time, and that can give anyone gray hair. Stress also negatively affects your ability to perform at your best. That results in a self-fulling circle of sorts…you worry about your grades, you cannot study and then your grades truly do plummet.

What can be done about it? The best cure may be to take care of yourself. Go exercise, even if you don’t think you have time to fit in that half hour of stair-stepping. Eat well, even if you think gulping down a Big Mac might be all you can handle at the moment. Turn off your phone, television and Facebook page for a few hours. Drop in on a friend or sit around the Christmas tree with family — even if you think you should be studying for just one more hour. Because if you take that time to make yourself feel better, you might actually study better.

Here’s my personal example. I have a deadline this week for a story about Mompreneurs. Great subject, right? It’s about stay-at-home moms who are working both in and out of the home to make ends meet and keep their own sanity intact. I tried and tried to get myself to work on the story last night, but I was struggling. The pressure kept mounting as I stared at a blank screen.

What did I do? I turned off my computer. I popped on the TV, found a mindless home-renovation show (my personal favorite) and opened a can of salty potato chips. I ate half the can (don’t tell anyone) and sat back in complete silence. When the half-hour show was done, I was ready to write. Really. I wanted to for once. And I got more done in that next hour than I had all day. I went to bed happy and satisfied.

Give yourself a break if you can. It might make all the difference in the world.

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