Happy October, it’s finally finally fall in LA. Fall is my favorite season; I love the cooler weather, fall colors and pumpkin/cinnamon everything. While fall has plenty of upsides, in college, it also means midterms and labs and homework assignments all piling up in the span of a few weeks. October is just about halfway through the semester, so all my classes with just one midterm are throwing those at us right about now. When you’re trying to study for 4-5 different midterms, attend all your classes, keep up with extracurriculars aND sleep once in a while, things can get pretty hectic. Not to mention the fact that 6 of my close friends have birthdays in October, meaning birthday dinners, get togethers and brunches. I wanted to dedicate this post to some strategies I’ve nailed down for dealing with stress, and keeping myself sane during the most hectic time of the semester– here goes!
- GET A PLANNER/MAINTAIN A CALENDAR!! No one can operate just off post-its and remembering deadlines off the top of their head. Get something to write down your assignments, whether that’s a physical planner or a google calendar/notes app. I personally use both: I put my class schedule, meetings, events and appointments on my calendar, and my day to day assignments in my planner. The more places you have your tasks written down, the better.
- TAKE BREAKS!! This one is critical!! No one can study for 15 hours straight in a library, make sure you make time for a mental break. Watch something short on netflix, grab food with a friend, throw around a frisbee; the possibilities are endless. Your brain will thank you for it, your focus will improve and you’ll feel less exhausted, physically and mentally.
- EXERCISE!! This varies from person to person. If you’re not a huge exercise or work out person, go for a walk or even just stand up and stretch while working. I’ve always been an active person, so hopping over to the gym for a bit helps me center my thoughts, feel good about myself and get those endorphins flowing. I’ve never regretted going to the gym or working out before a big study marathon. Endorphins will make you focus better, get your blood flowing, and put you in a more positive, productive mood.
- MEDITATE!! This is a new one, I recently got into meditation over summer and have been continuing it into the school year. Taking a few minutes a day to just breathe, focusing on nothing but your breath and your body, does wonders for your state of mind. I’ve used an app called Headspace for a while now, that one makes meditating super approachable and easy to do. I know when I first starting meditating I would get incredibly overwhelmed with my thoughts and start making to-do lists in my mind, just automatically, but headspace talks you through a simple 3-5 minute practice. Fun fact, I actually had lunch with the co-founder of Headspace a month ago, through my involvement with the Brittingham Social Enterprise Lab on campus!
- CHANGE OF SCENERY!! Libraries are productive but kind of boring after a while. Head off campus to coffee shops, visit friend’s apartments or hang out at a dining hall. Sometimes a change in scenery is all you need to get into the study zone.
- TALK TO PEOPLE!! Confide in your friends or family if you’re stressed, keeping all your stress and overwhelmed-ness inside is a downward spiral waiting to happen. Your friends will support you, and cheer you on if you tell them you’re stressed out, they’ll give you space or help motivate you if that’s what you need. It’s so nice and freeing honestly to just break down and word vomit all your thoughts on someone you know has your back 100%. You are not alone in these feelings, that’s KEY to getting through midterm and life stress situations. My friends are literally my ROCKS in college, I would be absolutely nowhere without them.
- USE YOUR RESOURCES!! Freshman year, I had a ton of pride and thought I didn’t need to study with friends, go to supplemental instruction sessions or go to office hours with professors. Coming into USC from a super competitive high school, I assumed what I had done in the past would work fine in college, and I spent nights of frustration studying questions I didn’t really understand and trying to work them out by myself. DON’T DO THIS!! When you’re tackling midterms, homework assignments or even just trying to keep up with the class, talk to your friends about it! I definitely get distracted by working with friends if there’s a big group of us, so I study with one or two friends max. We pretty much just work on problems with headphones in at our own pace, but the other is there as someone to bounce ideas or questions off of– it helps immensely to talk things out. There are always TAs and upperclassmen who have taken the classes you’re in before, and the professors are usually approachable and helpful when you’re really confused about concepts. On that same note, don’t wait till the day or two before to start studying for your exams, because then you lose out on these resources because professors won’t answer emails a few hours before exams. To be honest, I’m still working on this myself, but I’ve definitely gotten a lot better about it since freshman year.
And that’s all I got!! Power through this stressful midterm season friends, and to all the prospective students out there, these tips totally apply to high school exams as well. Back to studying I go!