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Experts offer advice for managing mid-terms

Counseling Center

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It’s hard to believe, but mid-term season has already arrived.

Perhaps you’ve been taking tests weekly and feel in-the-groove. Perhaps you’ve been working steadily on your paper and simply need to edit it. Or maybe you’re freaking out. If so, this article is for you.

For those of you whose grade depends solely on the mid-term and finals, for those of you who hope to improve your grade through mid-terms and for those of you whose heart races every time you hear the word “exam,” read on.

Stress is your response to any kind of change. Whether that change is a positive one (a first date) or a negative one (an illness), you still experience stress.

Most often, a little bit of pressure or stress can act as a motivator to study and a helpful boost to our ability to perform in academics, in sports or on the job. But sometimes stress becomes too intense or too prolonged.

When our stress is too high, our bodies go into fight-flight-or-freeze mode and the only thing we can do is survive.

As stress hormones flood our bodies in order to maximize power and speed, our hearts pump faster and harder, we breathe more rapidly, we perspire, our digestive processes are put on hold and our bowels and bladder empty to lighten the load. This is not a thinking process. Unlike your mid-terms.

So what can you do now with mid-terms breathing down your neck? Breath.

Yes, it sounds simple, but breathing fully and deeply is essential to calming  our bodies so that our brains can do their jobs. Practice right now.

Inhale deeply from your diaphragm, completely filling your lungs and puffing out your chest. Let your neck and shoulders relax as you slowly exhale as long as you possibly can. Do it again. Do it at least four times each day.

Now that you’re breathing fully and feeling a bit of relief, what else can you do?

List all the things you think you need to do right away.

Prioritize the top few items and do those right now. Know that not everything needs to be accomplished today, yet notice that each day you do complete items. If not, break each task into smaller chunks to make things more manageable.

What else? Exercise, get enough sleep (7-8 hours each night), eat regular well-balanced meals, connect with friends and or family, limit caffeine and alcohol intake and literally laugh out loud.

You can start by using regular study breaks to take a walk, chat with a friend or eat a healthy snack.

Giving your brain a break allows time for rest and consolidation of information.

Impossible you say? Burning yourself out will not help your academic performance or your health.

If you are living in a state of constant stress, you may notice that you experience difficulty focusing, trouble remembering things, problems sleeping, increased irritability and or fatigue.

Of course you cannot expect to be perfectly balanced at all times. We recalibrate throughout every day and every week as we attune to our needs (academic, physical, mental, social, emotional) and decide how best to meet them.

Need some extra help to de-stress? Check out the OASIS in Clark 124 to use the biofeedback machine to lower your heart rate, to get a boost of light therapy, or to sit in the massage chair to work out the knots, pain and tension in your muscles.

Drop in to a Boxer Breather session on any Thursday from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. in Clark 124 to practice mindfulness and other resiliency skills.

If you have ongoing problems with irritability, moodiness, avoidance, anxiety or depression, call the Counseling Center for an appointment  at 503-352-2191.

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