Minimize Midterm Stress and Maximize Your Mindfulness

11 Oct

During midterm season, school can engulf our lives. All we do is attend classes, study, eat, and if we’re lucky, we get the seven to nine hours of sleep that the National Sleep Foundation says we need each night.  A lot of times our calendars may look something like this:


Consider, too, that this is only November; many events aren’t planned out yet. A hectic schedule can take its toll on the body. There are a few good habits we can develop in as little as three weeks — according to a developmental psychology class I took at the U of A — to help us deal with the stress of school and maintain a healthy balance. I know some of you may be thinking, I don’t have time to change my habits, but it’s something that you can gradually start, and before you know it, it’ll be your new routine. I say this because you can never really get use to midterm season! Seriously though, I’m a senior and I still struggle to keep a balance between school, work, extracurricular activities, a social life, and most importantly, sleep!

Good Habit #1: Exercise

I recently decided that I wanted to find a new way to get rid of all the extra stress. Applying to graduate school, keeping on top of a full class load, holding a research position, and being president of a club, all the while working two jobs, was, needless to say, getting the best of me. Because I have a bad knee, I decided to do a bit of research to find workouts that wouldn’t be rough, but would still  challenge my body. I found this image:


I decided to start going to the Rec at least three times a week to get healthier, both to lose a couple of pounds, and at the same time, to relieve my built-up stress. I was motivated to accomplish a “mellower” me, even if I’d have to sweat. I’m not going to lie; at first the gym was killing me! I’d stop running the track feeling less stressed but more tired. Our bodies need a little time to adjust; no one said it was going to be easy, right? After exercising regularly for a month and a half, I can honestly tell you that I am less of a stress ball. I get less headaches, have more time for an actual social life, and I sleep better at nights. I still have all the responsibilities that I did before, but because I go to the gym for an hour a day, I feel much more at ease with everything. I know I have enough time to complete my tasks, it’s just a matter of sitting down and actually doing them.

Good Habit #2: Social Life

One of the hardest things to maintain during midterms is my social life (it might be the complete opposite for you). Friends and family are support systems that we sometimes don’t even consider in our rough times.

This past weekend, a couple of my friends decided to get together for a movie night. We ate pepperoni and mushroom pizza — a lot of it — talked about school and work, and watched two movies back to back: Pitch Perfect and Safe Haven. I highly recommend both flicks if you don’t mind sappy love stories and an a cappella girl-power group. Hanging out with my friends brought everything into perspective. I should appreciate life every day. Even if I just do it for five minutes, it still counts, right?

One of my favorite ways of “appreciating” is walking around campus. Have you ever taken the time to look at all the beautiful flowers? Or the sunsets? Ah, definitely one of my favorite things to do!  With the season-change, sunsets are a little earlier now, but if you go to the fourth floor of the Student Union, or any parking garage around just before 6, you’ll get to experience this. If you have a car, I love driving up to “A” Mountain (Sentinel Peak)–it’s the perfect view!


My family is really important and dear to my heart, but being away from them doesn’t make it easy. I make it a goal to talk to my little sister for at least ten minutes every night. It makes her day a lot better, and I assure you, I am one of the happiest girls on this planet after our conversations. If you’re away from home, calling home is something that you might want to consider. Or, if you’re still living at home (which isn’t a bad thing—who doesn’t love home cooked meals?), you can consider doing a games night and play Monopoly or Uno with your siblings or parents. Interaction that has nothing to do with school will get you a little more relaxed and you’ll be able to enjoy the time you do spend with them!

Good Habit #3: Personal Life

Personally, pun intended, this aspect is the most pleasing to me. I love spending time with myself, as weird as that sounds.


I live by this quote. I also put it in my planner so it reminds me to do something I enjoy that day, and then do it the next as well. It’s SO important to take care of ourselves, whether mentally or physically.

One of the most important things to do is eat healthy, which is something extremely complicated if you are on campus almost all day like I am. But, there are simple changes that can be made. For starters, let’s try to steer away from the Student Union. Don’t get me wrong, I love me some orange chicken, but it probably isn’t the healthiest thing for lunch. Instead, I like to cook for myself. This way I know exactly what I’m eating and can try to make healthy foods. Sometimes being health-minded is hard with Mexican recipes. I cut the sour cream and cheese on my tacos. I’m not going to lie either. I indulge in bad foods at least twice a week; once during the week on campus, and the other on the weekends. It never hurts to please your taste buds in moderation.

Although I know we have to read 101 pages for school, when you read something for pleasure, it helps take you away from reality for a couple of minutes (or hours). Taking bubble baths and reading a magazine is one of my guilty pleasures. Just make sure you don’t fill up the tub as much as they did:


(If you live on campus, skip the bubbles and go to the pool at the Rec!).

If you are into meditation, it doesn’t necessarily have to be an organized event in a room with other people. You can do it for free in your own room. Like CAPS suggests, take deep breaths to feel the stress come off; the point is for your stomach to expand as much as possible when you are breathing in. Concentrate on making yourself better! Healthy mind, healthy body, right?

By keeping a well-balanced schedule, all of these things can be accomplished! Check out Franny’s blog last week about unique ways to organize your schedule, beyond just using a planner.

In the long run, we just have to remember to pencil in some time for ourselves. Being stressed is detrimental to our health, and ultimately, to our midterm grades as well. By finding small ways to improve, why wouldn’t we?

At the end of the day, all you have to do is remember to…


–Veronica Atondo


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