It's that time of the semester--midterms. Just the thought of the word can induce feelings of anxiety. It's not exactly calming to think about taking a test that could count for as much as 50 percent of your grade, let alone taking four or five of those tests. If you're as overwhelmed with midterms as I am, read on to discover six healthy ways to survive and cope with the stress of those evil tests.
1. Study gradually.
There may be nothing more stressful than having to cram in half a semester's worth of studying the night before the test. Procrastination does not usually lead to anything good. My biggest mistake of the semester: not reading any of the book for my online economics class until a few days ago. I have now thoroughly read 119 pages (of a textbook), and I still have at least fifty to go. Before tomorrow. Don't make the same mistake I did. Please, study gradually. Study throughout the semester. Study a little bit each day. When you chip at the work gradually, the midterm becomes infinitely less stressful because you already know everything. All you'll have to do is review a little before the test.
2. Take study breaks.
If you have saved all your studying for the days before the test, or even if you have been studying gradually, be sure to take study breaks. These will help your mind recover after it has seemingly turned to mush. Whether you grab a bite to eat with friends, take a nap, or sit outside for a little while, study breaks are incredibly important in maintaining your sense of sanity. They also give you the replenishment you will need to continue studying later on. Please, be kind to yourself. You may have fifty pages of your econ textbook to read before tomorrow, but if you try to do it all at once, it just won't work.
3. Get enough sleep.
When you have to study for big tests, it can be tempting to stay up into the wee hours of the morning reviewing the material (especially if you have been procrastinating). Do yourself a favor, and make sure you get enough sleep before you go to take your test. Knowing all the material is important, but being well-rested may be even more important. Try to get your studying done ahead of time so that you can sleep. A groggy student is likely to have a harder time performing well than one who is rested.
Moving your body is a fantastic way to cope with the stress of midterms, and you can easily exercise on one of your study breaks. Whether, for you, this means going for a walk, playing a game of basketball, riding your bike, or spending half a hour on the elliptical, just do something. Not only does engaging in physical activity help alleviate stress, but it also can improve your memory, help you sleep better (remember--you need sleep!), and boost your overall mood. All those things are incredibly beneficial during this stressful part of the semester.
5. Practice mindfulness.
Whether you call it mindfulness or meditation, take some time to just be. The stress of having to study for midterms can make a person frantic, but if you remember to reground yourself in an awareness of the present moment, your mind and body will be significantly calmed. If you have never engaged in this practice before, it may be beneficial for you to try it: Take some time to just sit in silence, focus on your breathing, and keep your awareness in the present moment. If you find yourself having thoughts, calmly acknowledge them, and then release them. Focus on your breath, and let the stillness calm you. This practice is incredibly nourishing. A half hour is an ideal amount of time to engage in this practice, but even five minutes can be beneficial.
6. Keep everything in perspective.
It can be intimidating when a single test counts for such a significant part of your grade in a class. Having to get a good grade can almost feel like a life-or-death situation. However, I assure you it's not. Is your test a measurement of how intelligent you are? No. It can be an indication of how well you know the material, but in some cases (such as when someone is not a good test taker), it doesn't even indicate that. Is your test a measurement of how much your job will pay when you graduate? No. One test (at least in this case) does not have the power to do that. Is your test a measurement of how healthy you are, or of how kind and compassionate you are? Again, that's a no. No matter how you do on your midterm, it does not say anything about who you are as a perfectly imperfect individual. It's one test. One test. A year from now, it won't even matter. It's just a test. Please, make sure you maintain a sense of perspective. This may be the best way to alleviate your stress.