Life @ U of T

Introduction

Taking Care of Yourself During Midterms

Taking Care of Yourself During Midterms

It’s that time of year where it seems as if I am catching up with my classes right before a midterm, while falling behind in others. This constant loop of work can be stressful and draining. Whether you have midterms, essays, or labs that are filling up your desk, there is always something far more important: your self and your health.

The main way I make sure I am healthy during midterms is simple: take as much time as I need to sleep, exercise, and make home-cooked food. Sounds time-consuming, right? But, without this, I feel drained, disorganized, and cannot focus, so I make sure to fit these into my schedule for the week. I try to spend as much as my commuting time as downtime to help separate school from home. For course work, I try to spend my weekends catching up and focusing on understanding my notes and immediately asking for help if I am unsure of something – I never know if I will be busy a later time and stressed right before a midterm attempting to understand all of the work. Most importantly, I try my best and listen to my body.

Orange mug with black cats being help in front of train tracks
Part of my morning routine is making fresh coffee in my favourite mug

I find that when I’m not fitting in time for my self-care and health maintenance, I am more likely to fall into thinking traps. Thinking traps are thoughts that try to shut down your possibilities or make situations seem more negative than they are. Thoughts like these tend to happen whenever I am most stressed or feeling overwhelmed with balancing my life. But, I have been learning to take the time to write these thinking traps down and convert them into truthful statements – ones that are a better reflection of the situation at hand. Let’s convert some of my common traps together:

1) “I will fail this midterm.” -> “I will try my best to answer all the questions on this midterm”

It’s easy to think that I don’t know enough information going into a test. However, for every test I ensure that I give it my best shot – to me, that’s attempting every question!

2) “The professor will be disappointed in me for not getting a good mark” -> “I will seek help from the professor if I don’t do as well”

I cannot read into the mind of a professor, a TA, or a peer, and yet I always think I will get judged for whatever grades I receive. In fact, most people are willing to help if I show that I am not understanding a topic! This re-write puts the thought towards myself and my own personal goals and removes any part of judgement that I cannot control.

3) “I always stay up too late” -> “Tomorrow, my goal is to sleep 15 minutes earlier”

It happens a lot that I get distracted and get startled by how late it is. I make myself feel guilty for not considering my own health or not finishing my work by catastrophizing the fact that I supposedly “always” stay up far too late, which isn’t true. I reworded this one to make it a measurable goal that I can remind myself of, and one that is reasonable for me!

These are just three examples of ways that I reword my thoughts on a daily basis to new ones that are measurable and reasonable. When I sit down to reflect or even when I catch myself with these thoughts, I immediately try to come up with an action plan to meet my new re-worded goal, whether it’s to sleep earlier or making a to-do list of prioritized tasks.

Notebook with handwritten notes and pen laying on top
My to-do list helps me unwind and organize my week accordingly

Everyone can reword their own thoughts differently, and there are many resources to do that. In fact, in two weeks Accessibility Services will be hosting the “Hitting the Midterm Slump” on October 29 to assist with midterm stress. Remember, you are more important than your school work.

2 comments on “Taking Care of Yourself During Midterms

  1. Good advice Alyson, thanks. I can get myself so anxious about the smallest thing. I need to remember that people at the school actually hope I succeed and want to help. So I put in the hours, ask for help when I need it – and like you, act right away to get that help… and it works! Thanks again. John

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