Ways to relieve stress during midterm week

By Emily Brightman

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The dreaded midterm week is once again bearing its gnashing teeth and University of Massachusetts students are beginning to feel the bite. Around campus, stress levels are rising rapidly as students prepare for the upcoming onslaught of late night study sessions and soul-crushing essay assignments. Even while in the midst of this academic mayhem, it is vital to remember to relax and stay sane in order to snag some successful studying time.

Here are a few tips to keep yourself from losing it (after cleaning the oven for the fourth time in an attempt to avoid learning Italian), and help you settle down with a hot pile of notes ready for cramming.

Take a hike

No, really, this isn’t meant to be facetious. Sometimes going for a walk is the best way to unwind and throw stress on the backburner. You don’t necessarily have to suit up for a mountain climbing expedition (but if that’s your thing, then by all means), but getting outside even for an hour can rejuvenate you enough to get motivated to hit the books again. The Pioneer Valley is chock full of walking and hiking trails that offer a tranquil escape from midterm anxiety and beautiful scenery to temporarily distract you from your mountain of homework. Besides, a little fresh air will remind you that there is indeed life outside the walls of UMass.

Eat some brain food

A tiring study session can leave you with a serious hankering for caffeine and sugar, but more often than not, these blood pressure-exciting substances will leave you feeling more exhausted than before. Energy drinks and candy are loaded with artificial sweeteners reeling to rot your teeth and leave you feeling jittery and unfocused. If you’re desperately craving a caffeine fix, ditch the Red Bull and go for a regular cup of coffee or tea. You’ll still get your daily dose of caffeine but without the other questionable additives. For snacks, try to avoid processed foods. High sugar content will only give you a brief rush of energy that quickly runs out and can leave you crashing harder than before. Try snacking on some strawberries or blueberries, both of which are naturally sweet and help increase memory function. Other good studying snacks are walnuts (good for your heart), pumpkin seeds (improves cognitive function) and avocado (improves blood flow to the brain). If you can’t break your candy habit, go for something dark chocolate – it’s rich in antioxidants and can help lower blood pressure. Plus, who doesn’t love chocolate?

Watch a movie

The human eye can only stare at textbook pages for so long. When you feel like you just can’t read another sentence in your organic chemistry textbook, throw on your favorite DVD or load up your Netflix account. Give yourself some time to be mindlessly entertained in between rigorous sessions of textbook reading. Sometimes the best way to improve your study strategy is to turn your brain off for a little while and do something that doesn’t require a lot of mental faculties. Just don’t fall asleep in front of the TV or you might lose your motivation to keep studying.

Do something fun

Let’s face it. Gluing your eyes to a laptop screen for six hours could drive anyone batty. When you feel yourself reaching the breaking point, put down the algebra notes and the graphing calculator, and do something enjoyable. Play a video game, have a one-person dance party, read a trashy magazine or throw on your headphones and go for a walk. Break up the monotony of your study pattern with activities that make you happy and take your mind off academic stress. Despite the pressure from your professors, you are more than just a student, so remember to have a little fun in between cramming for your exams.

Rest up

This pretty much goes without saying, but make sure that you get at least a full seven hours of sleep at night. Pulling all-nighters is almost a rite of passage in college, but instead of helping you maximize studying hours, the reality is that the less you sleep the more your cognitive functioning slows. While it’s fine to burn the midnight oil every now and then, an excess of sleep deprivation is ridiculously unhealthy and can seriously affect how you operate during the day. Don’t sacrifice your sleep time to read just one more chapter. Turn the lights out, curl up and take a snooze already. A full night’s sleep will leave you feeling refreshed in the morning and ready to hit the books anew in the light of day.

Midterms are a stressful time for every college student, but it is important to remember to take the time to unwind and put the tension of exams on hold for a while. But thankfully in just a week’s time we can forget the madness of midterms and greet.our cherished spring break with exciting travels and much needed sleep. Have hope, fellow students, we’re almost there.

Emily A. Brightman can be reached at [email protected] .