By Rachel Doty, a sophomore pursuing a BA in Communication Arts with a Theatre emphasis and a Professional Writing minor at Washington and Jefferson College.
Well friends, it’s that time of year again; midterm season. During this time of year, we have to study twice as much for exams, write longer papers, and possibly deal with dreaded group projects. Mix all that with the general stresses of college life, i.e. roommates, extracurriculars, managing a social life (or lack thereof), or other personal challenges, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Arthur Fletcher once said “a mind is a terrible thing to waste”, and certainly our minds aren’t being wasted at school, but they are being fried. To combat the midterm blues, here is a list of the top 8 ways to take care of your mind during midterms.
Okay, this one seems obvious, but many college students are averaging 2 hours of sleep a night (self included) and that just isn’t healthy. Sometimes all-nighters are necessary evils, but that doesn’t mean we have absolutely no control over our sleeping habits. I love taking naps in between classes, especially if I have a couple hours in that gap. If I have back-to-back classes, I’ll cat nap in between my last class and my extra-curriculars. Even one hour in a dark, quiet room under the covers can make all the difference. Even if you don’t fall asleep, that quiet time can clear your head and help you de-stress.
2. Go Outside
Sometimes, life feels like it’s moving far too quickly. While being busy is necessary for progress, we tend to forget that we are not machines and that we need to pause every now and again. I find that the best way to do that is to get lost in nature for a little while, if you can. Hiking a trail over the weekend can present a great opportunity to interact with wildlife, gain inspiration for your next project, and definitely help you focus. Don’t have hiking trails in your area? Take a walk around the block or sit out on the patio for a while. Take a few deep breaths and think about a happy memory, or something you’re looking forward to. Better still, if you know how to meditate, the outdoors should be a wonderful backdrop for you to find your center.
No, not your bio textbook. Find something you enjoy reading, and it doesn’t have to be a thick novel. Comics, mangas, and even joke books totally count! *Bonus points if you are wrapped in fuzzy blankets and sipping tea*
4. Flex that Creative Muscle
You don’t have to be an art major to enjoy some creative activities. The rise of adult coloring books has brought in a way to mix nostalgia with the power to create your own world on a blank page. Not into coloring? Try crocheting, painting, cooking, playing music, or writing stories. If you aren’t sure what to try, take a visit to a craft store and see what fascinates you. You might surprise yourself!
5. Call Your Mom
She misses you. Seriously though, call a friend or family member who you are close to. Sometimes, just talking about the stressors in your life is the most cleansing thing you can do. If you’re far from home like me, it’s easy to feel alone at times, so talking to a loved one can make all the difference.
6. Get Organized
I don’t know about you, but having an organized space really helps to tame my anxiety. A clear space makes for a clear mind, in a way. You can get organized in a lot of different ways. I have a whiteboard that I decorate every day with my schedule and some doodles, a planner with inspirational quotes, and colorful binders to keep different files in. I have a friend who jumped headfirst into the bullet-journal craze, and she swears by it. If you’ve never heard of bullet-journaling, it’s basically the birth child of a scrapbook and a planner. It’s pretty nifty to say the least. If you don’t have time for something like that, there are tons of other fun ways to keep organized. You can make makeup brush holders out of paper towel rolls, a bookshelf out of a few crates and some paint, and even the classic to-do list can help put your mind at ease.
7. Pet Some Kittens
Pet Some Kittens Do you even need an excuse? Being around animals is a great way to relieve stress, whether you’re a dog, cat, or any-type-of-animal person. Studies have shown that being around animals or having a pet can raise your levels of oxytocin, which can positively affect your physical and mental health. Oxytocin is a hormone that makes you feel good, meaning your world will look much better with higher levels of it. Studies have also shown that being around people is beneficial for animals, so it’s a win-win for you and your pet. Maybe they can’t help you study for midterms, but getting some bonding time with your furry/feathered/scaly friends can help relieve some major stress.
8. Make Time for Something You're Passionate About
If you’ve ever heard the age-old adage “Sleep, grades, or social life; choose one” while in college, you are almost guaranteed to relate. College is overwhelming, and that’s normal. Of course, it’s a good decision to prioritize your grades, but it is unwise to ignore your other needs. You are an individual with unique talents and interests, and college is the time to explore those interests. Find a club that interests you, even if it meets just once a week, and set that time aside to do something you enjoy. For example, every Monday night at 9 my friends and I go to improv club and act silly for an hour-and-a-half. There is no pressure, no grading curve, and no participation points. Better yet, that time we spend together puts us in a good place to keep pushing through the week. During testing seasons, it can be hard to persevere, but it’s important to remember that we are only human, and it’s never a good idea to push ourselves to the edge. Instead, let’s take some deep breaths, regain focus, and find a way to be good to ourselves and to our GPAs.