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How to Survive Midterms (Without Losing Your Mind)


The middle of the semester means cooler weather and prepping for Thanksgiving break, yet it also means it’s time to start studying for midterm exams. With so much on your plate (or rather, your planner), the stress can pile up and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. But there’s no need to have a meltdown just yet—with our tips, you can minimize that stress and get through midterms the healthy way. So throw out that energy drink and read on!

Fuel Yourself With Healthy Foods

When you’re overwhelmed with homework and studying, it can be hard to remember to take a break for a healthy meal. Eating well helps to regulate stress and power you through long days of studying, so it’s important that you don’t forget to eat healthy meals!

After reaching a milestone, section or page number in your material that you set for yourself at the start of your study session, take some time to sit down with a plate of nutritious food. Meals that incorporate a balance of vegetables, fruits, whole grains and protein (fish, chicken, tofu, beans, eggs and nuts are all great sources of protein) are your best bets for keeping your energy levels up. You’ll be able to focus better when you’re not studying on an empty stomach!

You can also prepare snacks in advance so you’ll have on-the-go options ready.  If you’re planning on heading to the library throughout the week, prep healthy snacks on Sunday night to take with you to avoid temptation of the vending machine. Homemade trail mix, yogurt, fruit with nut butter, vegetables and hummus and sandwiches are a few healthy picks.

For more healthy meal and snack options, check out our guide of top brain foods to help you ace your midterm exams!


The tried-and-true method of working out to relieve stress comes in handy during midterm season just as it does during the rest of the semester, so be sure to set some time aside for this necessary aspect of a healthy lifestyle. You may be reluctant to sacrifice precious library time to exercise, but even a quick jog can help you to feel energized and alert.

“Exercising really helps me to de-stress during midterm season,” says Katie Boltz, a junior at Messiah College. “…Riding a bicycle is one of my favorites. It’s an easy and peaceful activity. If you’re riding a bike outside, you get to experience the fresh air and sounds of nature. If you’re riding a stationary bike inside, you can listen to your favorite music to help you to relax.”

If you feel like you’re unable to part from your desk due to the amount of work that you need to complete, check out these exercises you can do at your desk.

Indulge in DIY Spa Time

If your financial situation and schedule keep you from indulging at a real spa, you can still have your own spa rituals at a fraction of the cost and on your own time. Whether you give yourself a manicure, apply a face mask or a deep conditioning hair treatment or rub your feet with your favorite lotion, do whatever makes you feel your happiest and prettiest.

“A quick mini spa session works for me – not actually going to a spa, but something as simple as painting my nails helps to take my mind off of things for a little bit,” says Kathleen Portillo, a recent graduate of Union College.

Make Time for Quiet Reflection

By “unplugging” from the world for a few hours, you’ll retain more of the material that you are studying and you’ll keep your sanity. You’ll also be practicing your self-control skills by learning how to limit your time with technology and social media.

“I turn off my phone and spend an hour or two alone at the Museum of Fine Arts and look at beautiful paintings,” says Kelsey Lightfoot, a recent graduate of Wheelock College.

Meditation is also an effective method of relaxation. It allows you to focus on your breathing and your inner self. Try meditating (even just for a few minutes) as a study break in between subjects—it can help you refocus your attention and clear your mind before you get started on different material.

Study a Little Bit Every Day

Many professors will tell you to review your notes from class daily in order to better prepare yourself for exams and to master the material efficiently, and they are absolutely correct! This method of studying also reduces your stress because you won’t be attempting to learn half a semester’s worth of material in one night.

“Don’t cram the night before [your exam]. Do actual studying!” says Veronica Beaudry, a senior at Colby-Sawyer College.

If you haven’t been studying much throughout the semester, you can still plan a week or a few days in advance by spreading out topics over the course of a few days to review. Map out when you are going to go over what material at the start of the week so you have a clear game plan. Knowing what you are going to tackle is much less stressful than frantically switching from subject to subject with no end in sight.

Get Plenty of Rest

Sleep is especially crucial during midterm season when we’re often pressured into staying up late in order to study more material. Unfortunately, failing to get the rest that you need for your exams will cause you to be drowsy and unfocused when it’s time to take the test. Pulling an all-nighter may be tempting, but it will definitely catch up to you and can cause you to handle stress less effectively. Ideally, get eight hours of sleep a night during midterms. Set a goal bedtime and try to close your books when that time rolls around. If you do fall behind on sleep, try to squeeze in time for a nap during the day to get back on track.

Give yourself time to unwind before bedtime rather than studying up until the second that your head hits the pillow. Shut off your cell phone to minimize distractions and listen to some soothing music so that you go to bed relaxed, not anxious.

Just Dance

Since we collegiettes have no control over the fact that our professors give us midterm exams, we might as well embrace it and find a method of studying that works for our lifestyles. It’s also important to find the right balance between fun and hard work, which is an important life lesson to learn as well, so why not start now?

“During midterm study sessions, my roommate and I would schedule a break together and have a hardcore dance party for like 10 minutes before jumping right back into studying. That basically sums up my sophomore year!” says Elise Mesa, senior at Emerson College.

Finding ways to have a little bit of fun amidst the stress and chaos can keep the stress at bay!


So as midterm season approaches, remember that you’re not alone in your academic struggles, and that no matter what happens, you are worth far more than your GPA! Remember to study hard, continue to stay social and take time for rest and relaxation. Follow our tips, and before you know it, midterms will be done and you can enjoy Thanksgiving break to the fullest. 

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