Fueled by tons of caffeine and equal amounts of cortisol, I tell myself: “Take it one day at a time.” Except, I find myself saying this every day for four consecutive weeks. As I’m sure many of us can relate to, midterm season is the bane of our existence. Our social lives come to a standstill. Our sleep schedules become non-existent. But perhaps it’s our mental health that takes the hardest hit during this time.
Amidst the string of all-nighters and caffeine-induced jitters, I try to find things that can provide some solace in these trying times. Something as simple as reaching out to a friend and griping about how much we have to study, all while procrastinating the three lectures I have to review, can be enough. Some days, I may resort to getting myself a little treat. For some of my friends, this may look like squeezing in a workout at the gym or baking cookies while going over flashcards. Knowing that I can easily give myself something to look forward to in my day, apart from studying, allows me to create temporary distance and eases the feelings of intimidation I may feel towards tackling my to-do list.
The way I study is also an important means of stress management during midterm season. I personally love the Pomodoro technique for this reason. The Pomodoro technique is a structured study technique, which entails giving yourself a 5-minute break after 25 minutes of studying, also known as a Pomodoro session. One may give themselves a longer break after three consecutive Pomodoros. I may change the amount of time as needed, but I find that this works best for me to prevent burnout. Giving myself frequent breaks helps give me something to look forward to. Sometimes, I may get intimidated just thinking about all the lecture notes I have to get through, but studying in this way makes things more manageable.
The environment in which I study is also a factor which may improve my mental health and the quality of my studying. Depending on the course, I may book a study room and tackle problems with my friends. If I have to memorize all 20 amino acids for biochemistry, I could draw the structures out on a whiteboard until I finally get them all right. Finding a quiet place to study where I don’t have to worry about focusing is extremely important for me. I find that studying in the library or a cute café can be helpful because everyone around me is also studying. It creates an air of productivity and minimizes external distractions. Having water or my favourite—an iced matcha latte from Starbucks—within reach is also a bonus.
If all else fails me, I give myself a little pep talk. No one could go wrong with a little self-encouragement. It sounds very cheesy but repeating a little mantra to myself like “you can do this,” or, “you can do hard things,” can help. Jason Moser, an associate professor of psychology at Michigan State University, found that third person self-talk helps students regulate their emotions and may “provide perspective, and also encourage solutions.”
Midterm season is not easy by any means. With never ending to-do lists filled with assignments and tests to study for, it feels like it takes over our lives. But if we can take simple measures to make studying a little more manageable and give ourselves little moments of joy, we can help lessen the burden to our mental health.