There are two words college students hate to hear- midterms and finals. Since it’s the halfway point of the semester, midterms are in full swing, and college students across the globe are feeling the pressure academically. Campus culture has normalized the stressors that come with this time, even though it’s incredibly unhealthy to do so.

Therefore, we tapped into the expertise of a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor and Teaching Assistant Professor of Counselor Education at East Carolina University, Dr. Shanita Brown, to provide you with the best ways to manage the anxieties of this season. 

Keeping your body in fight-or-flight mode is dangerous. Adjustments to your lifestyle must be made, regardless of how much your professors, peers, or family try to convince you that stress ‘is part of the process’ when attending school.

“Stress and anxiety during midterms and high-stress periods can have a detrimental impact on one’s body, as cortisol levels spike,” Brown says. “It is like your body is going into overdrive,” she says.

Stress can trigger physical illnesses such as high blood pressure, migraines, and lack of appetite. Although having your body go into overdrive is thought to improve your school performance, still, it can negatively impact academic performance because your body begins to shut down. Therefore, what’s the point if our bodies are in harm’s way and good grades aren’t guaranteed from stress?

Our question exactly. That’s why Dr. Brown provided five ways for students to take it upon themselves to adapt to healthy habits during the intense seasons.

Mindfulness Activities

Try box breathing, meditation, and mindfulness, which activate the parasympathetic nervous system for relaxing the mind and body. If you’re new to box breathing, defined by Medical News Today, it’s breathing in, holding the breath, breathing out, and holding the breath. The four-step breathing technique and meditation reduce activity in the amygdala – the part of the brain primarily responsible for turning on your stress response. 

Listen To Music

Listening to music reduces cortisol levels, which can lower blood pressure and heart rate. Researchers speculate that psychological factors, like someone’s musical preferences and memories, could have an even stronger effect on their physical response to a song, according to Verywell Health. Therefore, consider which music makes you feel less overwhelmed when formulating your playlist instead of downloading the generic ‘calm music’ selection. 

Use Oils

Utilize lavender or eucalyptus oils or sprays to promote clarity and relaxation. Those Essential oils have a calming and soothing effect on the nervous system, as inhaling them taps into nerves that reach the amygdala to promote clarity and calmness. 

Connect with people who bring you joy and happiness, as this releases the feel-good chemicals in your brain. According to Remedy Psychiatry, research has found that neighborhoods with higher levels of social cohesion experience lower rates of mental health problems than neighborhoods with lower social cohesion. Colleges sponsor dormitory activities and clubs for a reason; finding a community that can support you during this time will be a game-changer. 

Find Your Glimmers 

Glimmers are the opposite of triggers. They focus on small moments that help you feel connected, safe, and peaceful. Examples include sitting in the sun or having fun with animals. Whatever brings you joy, be intentional about incorporating those activities into your schedule during high-stress times. 

Exercise

Exercise may be the last thing on your mind, but it’s super helpful when under pressure. According to the AADA, studies show it effectively reduces fatigue and improves alertness and concentration. All the benefits needed to remain focused and crush your midterms. 

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