As a student on the quarter schedule, I consider myself fortunate to be done with midterms already. In fact, I am currently studying for finals and submitting final essays. I know just as well as any other student that midterms make for a stressful few weeks. Moreover, spending hours each day studying, reading or typing, and spending most of the day stressing out over when to study leads to unhealthy behaviors.
However, I believe that there are ways to avoid letting stress get the best of us. By making some small adjustments to your studying routine, you can turn midterms into a more enjoyable part of your academic experience, and reap the benefits of a better mental and physical state! Here are some ideas:
Take Regular Breaks
For the college student in 2015, school work is typically online, and most studying is done later at night, rather than in the middle of the day. These variables contribute to a situation of students sitting at a desk in their dorm or apartment for several hours during the evening. Try to find a way to break this up. Perhaps for every forty minutes of studying, reading or writing, find time to do a short workout video online. I love Blogilates videos because they are short, and the instructor, Cassie Ho, is upbeat and plays poppy music. She’ll force you to do an insane number of jumping jacks or squats to the length of one song in a lot of her shorter videos. Alternately, you can get your circulation going by listening to an energizing song and dancing around during the length of it.
Having a healthy mental state during midterms is just as crucial as having a healthy physical state of being. Instead of confining yourself to your bedroom or dorm during studying, try walking to a new coffee shop or public library to do your work. Being able to walk around and engage with the world will energize you, and being in a new environment will change the pace of studying or working, making the time appear to go by faster.
Get Plenty of (Good) Sleep
During midterms studying, plan out when you want to begin and end working each day, and make sure that the end time is before your ideal bedtime. You’ll want to get at least eight hours of sleep each night especially during midterms, as being sleepy during a test or while working on an important paper leads to less focus. If stress keeps you up, you can try using a low-dose of melatonin at night (Trader Joe’s makes a great melatonin supplement). A bedtime tea with calming ingredients can also be very helpful; such as the Soothing Caramel Bedtime tea by Yogi Teas, which can be found at Target or Whole Foods.
Watch Your Caffeine Intake
I know as well as any other student that coffee is a wonderful study aid. I feel much more motivated after a warm cup ‘o Joe than in my groggy “before” state. However, drinking coffee throughout the entire day can cause dehydration because of its diuretic nature. Too much caffeine can lead to jitters and headaches, and can hinder your ability to fall asleep at night. Instead, limit yourself to drinking coffee only before noon, and find a lightly caffeinated beverage to sustain you throughout the rest of the day, should you need it. I suggest switching to green tea during the afternoon.
During the stress of midterms, a lot of students forget to notice when they are dehydrated. While studying, be sure to have a glass of water by your side for at least half of the time you’re working.
Along with the concept of mental well-being, make sure that you spend at least some time socializing, as well! Take time to call a loved one or spend time with a friend. Interacting with people you care about will serve as a pleasant break from studying.
Do Something Calming and Centering
This doesn’t have to be yoga or meditation, although both of those activities are fantastic for peace of mind. Spend time reading a book you enjoy, drawing/painting, or, if you’re religious/spiritual, prayer can also be an effective means of stress-management.
Practice Healthy Eating Habits
Even if this week or so is a stressful time for you, don’t forget to eat healthily! Make time for a healthy and balanced three square meals a day. Incorporating healthy fats like avocado, salmon and walnuts will be beneficial to nourish your brain. If you need studying snacks, make sure that they are balanced and will sustain you. You’ll want to avoid a sugar crash, so go for items like fruit and nuts, hummus and vegetables, or yogurt.
Study Or Take A Break Outside
Finally, make sure to spend enough time outside! One essential nutrient for brain health is vitamin D, which is best obtained by spending time in direct sunlight. Even if you just go for a fifteen minute walk around your campus, getting enough sunlight is a great way to improve your health!