Midterm season presents opportunity for self-care

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Graphic of paper with an A+ on it
Graphic by Anna Boustany / The Flat Hat

Midterm season is fast approaching, and with it, the foreboding atmosphere of stress and anxiety. For many students — looking at you, freshmen — this time of year can be the first true test of their academic lives here at the College of William and Mary. If you’re one of these lost and overwhelmed people, just take a deep breath and listen to any advice upperclassmen give out to you — it really works.

During my orientation week, I was able to talk with a few Orientation Aides who were smart and kind enough to give out early tips for the upcoming chaos.

Number one: sleep, sleep, sleep, sleep! If you’re dozing off while trying to write yet another paragraph for your COLL 150 essay at 2 a.m., it’s time for bed. Anything you’re currently working on will benefit in quality and substance from your much-needed rest.

However, even with that advice, I still had lots of things to figure out for myself when mid-October rolled around my freshman year. The lure of endless cappuccinos from Aromas Café at Earl Gregg Swem Library enticed me to set up home base in the first floor of Swem, and I almost immediately regretted it. The ambience of Swem during midterms week is just a concentrated version of the rest of campus — worried, anxious students looking to find solace on campus without great success. I was overwhelmed with how long it took me to find an empty desk, let alone the many people who looked to be on the verge of a mental breakdown in the desks already taken.

My next semester of midterms wasn’t much different, as I was forced to endure a number of the dreaded group projects professors love to give out. I was perpetually tied to the group study rooms of Swem, and the same atmosphere made me not want to return to Swem for many weeks after midterms were over. When I finally returned, I realized that if I ignored the negative attitudes of others and simply focused on improving my own, I truly enjoyed working in Swem with all of my friends, drinking too much coffee and joking about dropping out of college.

There are lots of other tips I could give to first time students like write a to-do list or meet with your professors during office hours, but the most useful is to not let the pressure get to you. A level head is worth a thousand tidbits of advice, because in the end, it comes down to you and your mental state, not others.

Staying relaxed and calm in the face of a huge workload is what makes it possible for me to write three papers simultaneously — shout out to other English majors. And yes, sleep is a part of this, as my OAs first told me. Along with this is staying hydrated and eating enough, which can sometimes be pushed to the backburner when you haven’t finished your readings for the night yet.

No matter what your midterm schedule looks like, just remember to take care of yourself first, and do everything else second. It looks different for everyone, but if you find the key to remaining positive, you’re more likely to succeed and stave off the stress that accompanies this time of year … and don’t let first-floor Swem scare you off, those cappuccinos really are worth the trouble!

Email Elaine Godwin

at sgodwin@email.wm.edu.