Midterms and Finals seasons are, without a doubt, some of the most stressful times of any college student’s semester. Trying to memorize an entire semester’s worth of material can be incredibly overwhelming, and it can quickly add up with multiple classes to study for, plenty of papers to write, and important projects to complete. While test time will always be busy and nerve-racking, there are many great tips and tricks for managing stress so that you can do your best and stay productive with ease. 

Why is Managing Stress Levels Important?

We all know that stress isn’t fun. Feeling overwhelmed and tired is certainly not pleasant, but high stress levels can also have significant negative effects on your mental and physical health over time. High stress triggers a fight or flight response, where the levels of stress hormones in the body like cortisol and adrenaline sharply increase. Heart rate and alertness increase while bodily functions like digestion are suppressed in response to the stressor, giving a boost of energy and focus to maneuver the dangerous situation. 

This physical response is clearly important in dangerous situations, and those higher levels of stress hormones are normal and helpful in short doses. But, if those levels stay high for an extended period of time, it can wear down on the body and mind and lead to fatigue, a weakened immune system, heart problems, anxiety, and depression, among a multitude of other effects. This means that when you are stressing about exams for weeks on end, this reaction,  which has helped us survive throughout history, becomes a real health concern. In addition,  stress hormones can prevent you from feeling focused and healthy in the midst of trying to do well on exams. So, what can you do?

Preventing Midterms (or Finals!) Stress 

The best way to prevent overly stressful situations during midterms is to plan ahead and be prepared. 

  • Give yourself time! Instead of an anxiety-fueled night of cramming for a test with an overwhelming amount of material to remember, try to set aside some study time each day leading up to midterms.  Review information in manageable chunks of time and reasonable amounts of material. 
  • Figure out what you need to know. There is nothing worse than trying to do some last-minute studying and realizing you have no idea what to focus on and what is most important. Review your notes from class to see what was significant, and consult the study guide if there is one. 
  • Make sure you are organized and prepared with everything you need to succeed. Past assignments, any course materials, and testing supplies are essential. Studying is way harder than it needs to be if you don’t have the course readings or textbook, and getting flustered over realizing you don’t have the correct kind of pencil when you show up for the midterm makes it much harder to focus. Check what materials you will need to bring before test day, and if you haven’t gotten the course textbook, there is still time to order and have it as a valuable resource in your study time. Rent or buy your textbooks at eCampus.com for cheap and be prepared for your big exams! 
  • Stay on top of work! You do not want to end up trying to finish two final projects, a presentation, and three research papers while attempting to study at the last minute. 
  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Plan group study sessions with your friends or classmates to hold each other accountable for staying focused, or attend your professor’s office hours when you have a question or come across something in the course material that you are unsure of.
  • Take care of yourself! Try to get enough sleep, stay hydrated, eat enough, and get some physical activity. Much easier said than done during midterms, but taking care of your physical health makes a huge impact on how you function both physically and mentally.  

Reducing Stress During Midterms

Stress levels can certainly be managed with some preparation and consistency, but try as we might, midterms and finals are still going to be stressful on some level. It is important to recognize stress, and to allow yourself to decompress and do something to reduce that stress level before it becomes a bigger problem. Taking breaks and doing things you enjoy to allow your brain to rest and recover is just as important as studying. 

Try testing out some time-management methods, like the popular Pomodoro Technique of scheduling certain blocks of focus time and break time to keep your brain refreshed and energized. When you feel overwhelmed, go outside and take a walk, play an easy board game with your friends, or just veg out and watch an episode of your favorite show. 

Midterms can be a difficult time. Taking care of yourself and maintaining positive studying habits can make all the difference, not only in your grades, but also in how you feel. You’ve got this! 

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