8 Ways to Keep Your Sanity During Midterms

Ah, midterms. Also known as the dress rehearsal for finals. For many of us, mid-fall and the promise of Halloween are dashed with the stress and anxiety that manifest themselves in the form of midterm exams. Worry not, though—here are eight tips to prevent you from feeling like this:

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1. Start organizing early. At least three weeks before your actual exams are scheduled to take place, begin gathering your materials and creating study schedules for yourself. Take a few hours one day to just compile all your papers, books, and notes. Make a day-to-day schedule of what you want to study for and when—and don’t forget to schedule breaks for food, exercise, sleep, socializing, or leisure activities!

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2. After you’ve devised your schedule, start creating study guides early enough. Add a bit of new material every day so that when exam time rolls around, you’re all ready to go, and aren’t struggling to learn something new when it’s too late.

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3. Don’t forget to relax. As I mentioned earlier, scheduling breaks between studying is critical. Don’t deprive yourself of food, sleep, or social interaction—doing so can lead to burnout, which is the last thing you need during a time of high stress. Find something you love doing and make some time for it during midterms, either to reward yourself after the test or to de-stress before.

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4. Exercise. Even if you don’t hit the gym on a regular basis, it’s still important to get your blood flowing and muscles moving. Studying for extended periods of time can mean sitting in one spot all day, which isn’t helping your body or your brain. A study by American Intercontinental University says that exercise can increase memory retention, improve mood, assist with focus and concentration, and, above all, relieve stress. So, get out for at least a half hour and get moving!

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5. Remember to eat. I cannot stress this enough. It’s all too easy to forget to eat when you’re so immersed in 19th century philosophy, but skipping meals or tying yourself over with unhealthy snacks is not the answer. Again, take a break from studying to enjoy an energy-boosting meal with friends—you’ll be fueling both your body and your mood. Try to eat more produce, protein, and whole grains (the more energy-sustaining foods) to boost concentration and stamina. Sugary snacks may be a quick fix, but they’ll cause you to crash quickly.

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6. Chug, chug, chug. You might have remembered to eat, but are you hydrating yourself enough? Studies show that dehydration has the capacity to shrink the brain—and, let’s face it, you need all the cerebral power you can get right now. The brain is 80% water, so depriving it of the liquid miracle isn’t doing you any good. So drink up—you’ll not only feel and look great, but be able to think clearly.

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7. Crank up the tunes.  For those of you who need music in the background while you study, this is the perfect opportunity to create your perfect study playlist. I like to listen to opera, and studies have shown that listening to classical music while working can improve performance. So, whatever your most effective background music is, put it on while you hit the books.

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8. Eliminate your distractions. In contrast to the previous tip, you’d be surprised at how much you’re able to get done if you turn your phone off and keep it out of sight. The same goes for potentially distracting websites—you can use a site called Keepmeout.com, which lets you input which websites you may be visiting a little too much and are looking to avoid, and warns you against entering them however often you want it to.

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With all of this in mind, it can be overwhelming to balance academics and everything else in life. However, with adequate preparation, it is possible to achieve that stability!