You’re heading into the sixth week of the semester, finally feeling like you’ve got classes under control and you’re getting into a routine. But then all of a sudden, you’re hit with three exams, two presentations, and a paper that was due yesterday. Oops? As a fellow student, I understand the inevitable stress that comes around this time – the beloved midterms season. It may seem like your professors are secretly out to get you, but chances are that’s not exactly true. While a bit of stress can motivate you to get work done, too much stress can lead to poor sleep quality, cravings for sugar- and salt-laden junk foods, and irritability – all of which can ultimately thwart your academic performance. So, before you spend another all-nighter in the library or reach for a late-night bowl of ice cream, try some of these stress-relieving tips and see how they pay off on your next exam.
Create a new study playlist.
One thing I love to do when I have a lot of studying ahead is add on to my existing study playlists or build new ones from the ground up. If you’re someone who can listen to music with lyrics while doing homework, I’ve found it works best to listen to music you don’t know so you can resist the urge to sing along. If you prefer instrumental music, acoustic guitar and string instruments are among the best in my opinion. I love the Vitamin String Quartet and just made a Spotify playlist with their renditions of some of my favorite songs. In fact, many studies show that listening to classical music while studying can enhance learning and has tons of other benefits!
Take at least 30 minutes for yourself every day.
Relaxing seems like the last thing you should be doing when you have 100 things on your to-do list, right? But, spending half an hour or longer doing something you enjoy can relieve some of your stress by taking your mind off your school responsibilities. A friend recently passed on to me something she learned from her yoga instructor: “When you think you don’t have the time to practice for even 10 minutes, that’s when you need to for two hours.” How true is that? The less time we perceive ourselves to have, the more time we need to dedicate to being in the present. If you’re not sure what to do with your 30 minutes of “me time,” you could try journaling, exercising, meditating, reading, cooking, or taking a power nap.
Plan out your day the night before.
Nothing starts the day off on the wrong foot quite like waking up in a frenzy and scrambling to get to class in time. Even worse, to get there and realize you left your correct class binder at home. Rather than frantically scavenging your closet for the perfect outfit (or any real clothes) in the morning, throwing all your notebooks in your backpack just in case, and grabbing an unsatisfying granola bar on your way out the door, try preparing everything before you go to bed. Make yourself overnight oats (Fit Foodie Finds has some great recipes) or have a piece of fruit nearby, fill up your water bottle, pack your bag, and lay out clothes in advance so you don’t have to worry about those things in the morning. This will save you a few cherished minutes of sleep and loads of frustration in the morning.
Put. The. Phone. Down.
I promise, your friends’ Snapchat stories really aren’t that fascinating – they’re probably studying for midterms right now, too. And I know the weekend just ended, but Instagrams and Facebook posts will still be there in a few days. Plus, looking at everyone else’s photos from the social event you skipped for a hot date with the library will only worsen your FOMO. When your exams are over and you finally have some time to catch up on social media, avoid doing it right before bed. You’ve probably heard by now that your phone or laptop’s blue backlight can disrupt your sleep cycle, but what about the iPhone’s “night shift” setting? Research is still TBD on whether or not all technology has negative effects on sleep, but either way, it’s all too easy to get sucked into spending too much time on your phone and miss out on sleep that will help you retain what you’re learning in class.
Remember that grades are only numbers.
And they do not define you. This isn’t meant to say you should blow off studying for your exams or give half-effort to a project because grades don’t matter; they certainly do when you’re paying a lot of money to get an education and if you plan on applying to other higher education in the future. Instead, I’m saying you should be proud of the work you do when it’s your best. This is something I’m working on myself – trying to find the balance of working hard/doing my best, yet not getting discouraged when I don’t perform as well as I wanted to. After all, I’m only in my first half of the college journey and still very much a work in progress. But, if this is something you consciously remind yourself of before each exam or due date, you will feel more confident with what you turn in.
I hope some of these tips will help you relieve a bit of anxiety not only during midterms or finals, but in any stressful situation you face outside of school as well. If you have any stress-relief advice or some favorite tips of your own, I’d love to hear them!