How Midterms Are Taking a Toll On Your Body

As we approach Thanksgiving break, many students face mountains of midterms/essays from weeks 3 to 8, a lovely result of the quarter system. With the stress that accumulates from classes, work and even your personal life, you may discover that your stress levels are affecting your physical and mental faculties. You may not even realize how much stress affects your body, but stress symptoms can often appear as symptoms of illness, like insomnia, headaches and decreased productivity.  

Stress can affect your different body systems in various ways. It affects your cardiovascular and respiratory systems as your heart rate and breathing tend to speed up when affected by stressors. Without consciously thinking about controlling your heart and breathing rate, you are more prone to heart attacks, higher cholesterol levels and panic attacks.  

To calm yourself, you should focus on breathing techniques, either with deep breaths or even an application on your phone to lead you through guided breathing techniques.  For example, the app Breathe2Relax will guide you through breathing exercises that will help you relax.  You can even practice breathing exercises on your own with the 4-7-8 breathing technique: breathe in for 4 seconds, hold it for 7 and let it out for 8.

Stress can also cause stomach problems.  Hormones caused by stress are designed to give you energy, which can cause insomnia and also tell your liver to produce glucose, which can lead to diabetes.  Furthermore, stress causes changes in eating habits, from loss of appetite to increase in appetite. It can also cause or worsen heartburn, acid reflux and ulcers. To de-stress and burn off some of that extra energy, you can exercise and listen to music. Furthermore, you should pay attention to your eating habits and focus on eating healthy if you want to reach for that late night snack.

Unfortunately, stress can lead to issues with your menstrual cycle.  It has the tendency to worsen PMS syndromes and cause irregular periods. To further reduce your stress and hopefully reverse some of these symptoms, you can talk about your problems with a friend or with a counselor.  

Finally, when studying for a test or worrying about midterms, your body tenses up due to the stress. However, in mentally-taxing but physically-lax situations, this tension is unnecessary. Due to this increased tension, you may experience the most commonly known physical effects of stress: muscle tension and headaches. The position you sit in to study may also affect your body. If you are always crouched over your desk, you may notice soreness in your shoulders and neck, for example. To relieve tension, you can try yoga or other muscle relaxing techniques. You can even take a yoga class on campus and take a breather between midterms! 

woman doing yoga meditation on brown parquet flooring

Being aware of the effects that stress can have on your body may help you learn the right de-stressing techniques for you. Pay attention to what your body is saying and listen to it! It is definitely worth taking breaks while studying if it leaves you headache-free later.