Midterm stress can be avoided

Walking around campus this week, I’ve noticed the same troubled expressions on a majority of students’ faces. It’s the dazed look of stress, and in some cases, fear.

It is easy for one to infer from the puzzled faces everywhere that it must be time for midterms. For many, it is a very trying period, even more so than that of finals.

The difference is this: Midterms set the overall tone for the rest of the semester. If you bomb your midterms, you have to pull off a miracle on the final. However, if you do well on the midterms, you at least have a general sense of what to do for the rest of the semester in order to pass. Because of this, midterms are always stressful for me.

Judging from the general demeanor of students, it seems to be the same for others. Rather than becoming overwhelmed by the stress of midterms, let it be a time of renewal. Thankfully, it’s almost over. Perhaps we can learn a lesson from this stressful time.

Stress can be alleviated in many ways. The sooner we incorporate leisure activities into our stressful lives, the better our classes will turn out.

Studying for countless hours without a break can be inefficient, and, in many ways, counterproductive. Small breaks are important and can help you study more efficiently.

I suggest the following activities for study breaks. I insist they not be passive in nature (such as watching TV), but rather, be active in mind and body.

First off, why not take a constitutional, the way Greek philosophers did? Walking is a great source of exercise. While walking, let your mind wander. Just because you are taking a walk doesn’t prevent your mind from working.

Sometimes the answers I have been searching for present themselves in these situations. It’s amazing what quieting your mind and moving your body can do for the activity in your brain.

Perhaps taking a walk is too passive an activity for you. Some like to burn off stress by working out. This is a great activity as well. Take out your frustration in the gym while you burn hundreds of calories. Depending on the intensity of your workout, you may return to your studies physically tired, but your mind will feel recharged, able to retain more information.

How about doing some pleasure reading? This may seem like a contradictory stress reliever because you’re supposed to be taking a break from studying. But as long as what you are reading doesn’t relate to what you are studying, it will have the benefits of a leisure activity. Read a comic book or the newspaper, whatever you find entertaining. The benefit of reading for leisure is that it will keep your mind moving and prepared for when you return to your studies.

Hang out with someone who makes you happy; avoid loud or annoying people, as they will add more stress to your already-active life. Spending time with someone who cares about you usually can give you a confidence boost, as he or she will reassure you that everything will be fine.

Find an activity that will help you better enjoy studying more, but whatever activity you choose, it can’t be too distracting; it should be something that makes studying more enjoyable without affecting your productivity.

My last tip is to study right before you go to sleep. This will allow your brain to process the information during your REM cycles. Upon waking up, you will notice a stronger grasp of the material and an ease to your next study session.

Try to keep alcohol out of your study plan. Alcohol is a depressant and actually can add to stress. Avoid naps as well, for they can have the same effect and cause you to become complacent.

Everyone is different, so do whatever works best for you. However, the trick is to keep a positive mindset, no matter how difficult the subject matter may be.

Jack Daniel, The Northern Star Northern Illinois University