Midterms are here, and you might find yourself buried in an ever-growing pile of problem sets and papers or sitting through hours of lectures. It might look like there’s no end in sight, but there’s less than a full week of classes between you and the sweet freedom of mid-semester break. Here are some tips to deal with the stress for the time being, and a few more to help avoid the crunch the next time around.
Take a break
So maybe you didn’t figure out how to manage your time for the first half of the semester, and you’re drowning in studying and practice exams and papers on readings you haven’t quite finished yet. What you really need to do is take a break; put down the textbook and step away from your desk.
Exercise. Exercising releases chemicals that satiate your stress. Grab your roommate, get out of your room, and be active. Even if you only go for a walk down Forbes, you’re bound to feel a little relief.
Take a nap. Doesn’t napping speak for itself? Go to sleep for a little bit and wake up more able to deal with the work ahead of you. Let’s face it: When it’s four in the morning, you haven’t slept, and you’re still working, you probably aren’t getting much done. You’re distracted by minuscule details, like how to spell certain words, and your thoughts are less than coherent. You aren’t improving your exam grade (or your health) by going in with a quadruple-shot espresso glued to your right hand. Go to bed.
Don’t work. I’m not advocating a complete neglect of your responsibilities, but sometimes it’s a good idea to take a break and de-stress yourself. If you spend all of your time at a computer, trying to get work done but constantly distracted, you won’t accomplish anything. You might think you’re wasting two hours watching Zoolander on Comedy Central, but be honest with yourself: You’d waste those two hours on Facebook while “working” anyway.
The key. Remember, you still have work ahead of you. Just spend some time with your mind on other, more trivial matters and then throw yourself back in.
When midterms are over, you might want to think about how to avoid a similar mental breakdown come finals. You’re going to need to get a step ahead and stay that way — don’t let work catch up with you.
Schedule everything. Get a giant calendar from Office Depot or Staples. Note the days when you have assignments due or tests as soon as you find out about them. If you keep ahead of the workload, there’s less of a reason to be “surprised” by major academic events.
Prioritize. You have a paper due in two weeks and a math assignment due in two days. Don’t just look at the calculus; start developing that Shakespeare thesis now. If you set aside blocks of time in advance you won’t need to freak yourself out about the paper you haven’t started the day before it’s due. Keep track of when events overlap and make smart decisions about what to do.
Reward yourself. For every hour you spend on your physics work, take 15 minutes to catch the tail end of that Seinfeld rerun, put on Feist full blast and dance around to “1 2 3 4,” or walk over to Skibo to get frozen yogurt. Do something that is a complete waste of time — just don’t do it for four hours! Set your alarm clock (or the one on your cell phone) to remind yourself that you’re starting work again soon.
The key. Stay ahead. If you fall behind for the semester, there’s no saying you’ll be able to pull yourself out of it.