Take breaks while studying to survive upcoming midterms

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October 14, 2010

5:19 PM

As I sit here writing this article, I realize that I probably should be studying for my many exams in the coming days. On top of my homework, family weekend added another variable into the mix— as did the torrential downpours that accompanied every walk to class. Given all of these stressors, one would think I should have attended that mental health screening day.

Moving beyond my own life, I see friends under the same pressure, trying to balance busy schedules and heavy workloads. Facebook statuses are filled with comments about all-night studying and the specific number of tests or papers each student has due. Endless conversations in the dining halls about classes and work become even more pervasive during the midterm period.

These conditions are a given for most students at the College of William and Mary. The weeks surrounding fall break are accepted as a time of devotion to coursework and studying, which is completely understandable since many classes have only a midterm and final exam, placing a lot of pressure on students’ perfomance on these upcoming tests.

The methods students employ to cope with this stress vary greatly and can include drinking, sleeping and procrastinating. Some students, on the other hand, choose to handle these stressors by devoting their entire days to studious activities and eliminating all social aspects of their normal daily routines. This approach is unrealistic and — more importantly — unhealthy.

When I say some students, I do not mean to exclude myself. I have definitely fallen into the cycle of endless attention to detail and scrutiny when it comes to preparing for my exams. I, like many students at the College, place a high value upon my grades. When there is no upper boundary to studying, it becomes difficult to discern when I am comfortable with my level of preparedness for a particular test. In addition, over-studying causes a person to adopt unrealistic expectations for his or her grades when multiple tests arise in such a short period of time, as happens during midterms.

I have made a resolution to include planned relaxation time to help alleviate some anxiety involving my upcoming workload. I understand the contradiction involved in planning time to relax, but for some people it is not only beneficial, but also necessary. I have come to realize that there is, in fact, an upper boundary to studying. At some point, everyone needs to put down the books and make time to chill with friends. For example, going to walk around Colonial Williamsburg or renting a movie from Earl Gregg Swem Library can go a long way in relieving at least some of the anxiety midterms bring.

So, whatever you prefer to do for some rest and relaxation, I recommend blocking out some time for it this week. These tactics have helped lower my stress level significantly, and I hope that it can do the same for you. By the way, if anyone is looking for a recommendation, “Burn After Reading” by the Coen brothers is available at Swem — and the cast is impeccable.

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