Midterm stress baking. Wonderful buttery scones, right after a nutrition midterm
Midterm stress baking. Wonderful, buttery, slightly demented scones, right after a nutrition midterm

First, a short disclaimer: I am so very grateful to be in college right now. I’m studying something I love, at an amazing school and I fully realize that there are many people who don’t have the same opportunities I do. Being a student is such a privilege, and I am very thankful.

That being said, midterms are pretty awful. The stress and time spent studying can easily take away from from your food, health, and general quality of life. Here are a couple things, in no particular order, that I’ve found make midterm week hurt a little less. Some of these seem pretty obvious, but sometimes the obvious changes are the hardest to make.

1) Cut yourself some slack. I used to stress out even more during midterms because I wasn’t eating well or exercising enough, which was completely unproductive. I’ve learned to accept that I can’t do everything, all the time. Midterms mean I might not be able keep up my usual standards, and thats okay.

2) That being said, try to squeeze in some exercise. It decreases stress, helps you focus, and keeps you happy. This doesn’t have to mean spending two hours at the gym – take a short walk as a study break or do few minutes of yoga. When I start feeling tired and burned out, getting up and moving around is a great way to refresh.

3. Find a way to study that works for you. Everyone learns differently, so play around with different studying methods. Here are a few worth trying:

  • Flashcards. Quizlet is an awesome online flashcard website that my mom, a language teacher, likes to recommend. My roommate uses a similar program called Anki.
  • Rewrite your notes. Go through and condense them or write them in your own words to make sure you understand them. This is a great thing to do after every lecture if you have time.
  • Take practice tests. Studies show that testing yourself is an efficient way to learn.
  • Study with friends. Quizzing each other is one of my favorite ways to study.
  • Teach someone else. It can be your roommate, your parent, or your pet. Figuring out how to explain a difficult concept to someone else can help it stick better.

4) Keep your space clean. My mother would laugh if she was reading this – my room has always been notoriously messy. Lately, I’ve realized that she is right and that having a clean space makes my brain feel less cluttered.

  • Make your bed. It’s often the biggest thing in a college bedroom and when it looks clean, the whole room feels more put together.
  • Keep your desk clean. You need space to work.
  • Put things where they belong ( I always think of Monsters Inc – “Put that thing back where it came from or so help me…”). It sounds simple but putting things back right away helps SO much. It’s much easier to hang up one sweater than clean up a room covered in clothes. Once you start leaving stuff out, the clutter multiplies, so stop it before it starts. One rule that helps me is that I try not to put off anything that would take less than a minute to do (rinsing out a bowl, folding a shirt, etc.).

5) Create an environment that is conducive to studying. This is highly individual. Some people need quiet, others like background music. I always make sure I’m wearing comfy clothes if I’m going to be studying for a while. Lately, I’ve been trying to make my studying feel a little more special by lighting a candle or making a pot of my favorite tea.

6) Get enough sleep. I think this one is even harder to do during midterms than finals. At least during finals week, all you have to worry about are your tests. During midterms, you still have all your other lectures, homework, and any other work/internships/sports/extracurriculars you may have. Sometimes, there just isn’t enough time to get in all the studying you want to do. If I have a paper due, I’m willing to sacrifice sleep to get it done. However, for tests I try to make sure I get at least 6 hours of sleep and preferably 8.

7) Laugh at something. Watch a dumb cat video, hang out with your roommate, go read a funny book. Laughter is a great stress reliever. Cuddling works too.

One of my favorite cuddle buddies
One of my favorite cuddle buddies

My friends and I often joke about how we are studying a health science, but our own health goes down the toilet during midterms. It’s important to remember that midterms are just a few weeks – if you can’t meet your normal standards for health for a couple days, thats okay. However, if I don’t take care of myself during midterms, I feel sick and gross and often less productive. Here are a couple ways I keep myself feeling good that don’t take up too much time:

1) Keep a couple meals in the freezer for emergencies. Whenever I make soup, I try to stick a jar or two in the freezer so I have a quick meal to heat up later in the quarter. I also like to keep some frozen veggies on hand to quickly throw together.

2) Keep it simple. When I’m in a hurry, I fall back on whatever combination of carbs, protein, and veggies I have laying around to fill me up and keep me feeling good.

3) At the same time, try to eat food that tastes nice. Midterms are miserable enough that it’s good to have some happy moments thrown in.

4) Plan ahead. I have lots more to say about meal planning later (basically it is the best thing ever) but for now, all I’ll say is try to make some sort of plan for food during midterms. If I know I’m going to have a rough week, I’ll cook some staples (and treats) on the weekend to get me through.

5) Eat out. Try to find a couple restaurants that have relatively healthy food that you like. My go to is a salad bar called Pluto’s – it’s a great way to get some veggies in quickly.

6) Cook as a study break. By nature, I’m a stress-baker which is all fine and well but I’m trying to make sure I cook healthy food when I’m stressed too.

7) Enjoy sweets, but in moderation. It’s so easy to overeat when you’re stressed out and miserable but binging on sugar will only make you feel worse. I’ve found that if I include small treats throughout the day, like a couple squares of dark chocolate, I’m less likely to go crazy when I’m cramming for a midterm later that night.

Midterms are no fun at all, but thankfully, they’re temporary. Take a deep breath, study hard, eat your veggies and you’ll be just fine.


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