How to Protect Your Mental Health During Midterm Season

It seems as if me and my friends’ workloads this semester have been more demanding than usual, and midterm season has just made it even more intense. I never thought I’d miss the early quarantine days when my only responsibilities included trying out new coffee recipes and finishing Tiger King. Having schoolwork to keep me busy throughout the semester can help me feel more productive, but the constant studying during exam season can really take a toll on my mental health. Jumping from one exam to the next is pretty anxiety inducing, and it can be easy to feel like you never catch a break. 

I find myself only feeling productive if I’ve spent the entire day studying, and always seem to have a new exam, paper, or project due after I finish one. Something I’ve been trying to work on this semester is allowing myself to take breaks from constantly doing work and realizing that I will still have time to complete everything when I come back to it. It’s easy to feel like you’re not being as productive if you do this, but your exam performance will probably be higher if you make an effort to take care of your mental health. These tips are just some strategies I’ve developed to help keep my mid-semester anxiety and burnout in check. 

  1. 1. Take breaks 

    Girl studying surrounded by plants

    Spacing out your studying is great for both feeling less overwhelmed and learning the material. Cramming is never the right way to go, so taking a ten-minute break to relax will simultaneously be helping you consolidate the material and let you de-stress. You can make a coffee, facetime a friend, or watch some tik toks. The important thing to do is make sure you’re not staring at the same book for hours. This is also great if you’re stuck on one concept you just can’t seem to understand. Chances are, if you take a short break and come back to it, you’ll be looking at it with a fresh perspective and feel less stressed about it. 

  2. 2. Get Organized

    green and white grid notebook on desk with pencils, coffee, and plant

    Something that always helps me feel less stressed and anxious and more like I have my life in control is organizing my thoughts. I do this by writing everything down in a planner and making daily to-do lists, but this can look different for each person. Simply writing down a list of everything you need to get done and crossing off each item can help you feel more accomplished and prepared, and ultimately help reduce those feelings of exam anxiety. Another way to get organized is to set goals for what you want to have learned or accomplished by the end of the day. This can be a chapter in your book, one concept, or an outline for an essay.  

  3. 3. Be active 

    Being active is a great way to put your anxious energy towards something that still feels productive but isn’t the textbook you’ve been reading for the past five hours. I often go on a quick jog when I need a break and need to unwind, but you can also just go for a walk, do a quick ten-minute ab workout in your dorm room, or doing some yoga. All that matters is you give your mind a break and have some sort of outlet to relieve your stress.

  4. 4. Take some time to talk to someone 

    group of people reading and studying together at a table

    When I’m struggling during exam season, I always find that just taking the time to talk to a friend or my family is a great way to vent about all of my stress. I’ll call my mom and she’ll remind me to take a break, or I’ll grab lunch with a friend to catch up after a long morning of getting work done. It can be hard to make time to talk to friends and family when you’ve got a ton of work on your plate, but it can be a great way to both take a break and vent about the stress you’re under. A really important factor in looking out for your mental health is making sure you don’t stay in your own bubble of studying all day. 

  5. 5. Get a change of scenery 

    aisle between bookshelves in library

    Studying in your dorm or the same spot at the library every day can be really monotonous and kind of draining. Something I find really helpful is making myself find a new place to work. This can be just going to a different room in the library, studying outside, or finding a nearby coffee shop to go to. It may be hard to motivate yourself to leave that sacred study spot, but changing your surroundings can be a great way to change the headspace you’re in and maybe give yourself a new perspective on the material, too. Plus, cute coffee shops are just super fun to study in. 

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in the midst of exam season, and it can seem like no matter how hard you try, you’re not getting enough work done. It’s important to remember that college isn’t all about pouring all of your energy into schoolwork! You’ve probably got at least a few more years of school left and will be much more productive in the long run if you take time for yourself. We’re also in the middle of a pandemic, making it that much more important to keep up with how you’re feeling and check in on your friends, too!