Pressing pause during midterms: The importance of breaks

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Every college student handles midterm season differently. Whether you cope by spending dozens of hours in the library or sleeping to deny all responsibility, everyone has their preference. But how can we make sure that these dreaded tests don’t consume us?

College has a way of tricking us into believing any false move could spell our total demise. Even something as simple as missing out on a quiz can seem life threatening. This goes even further for something that has a larger impact on our grades, such as midterms. But in reality, the key to doing well on midterms isn’t studying as hard as you can. That’s only half the battle. What matters is how healthy and proactive our minds are during that entire process. To do that, we must allot time for our bodies to relax and have leisure activities that break the monotony of arduous study days. If you constantly cram your noggin with information, never giving it time to process what you’re studying, you’ll disservice yourself in the end. The brain works tirelessly like a muscle, and because of that, you shouldn’t flex it forever. It also deserves suitable breaks.

Get creative when coordinating the breaks you want from studying. For example, every so often, give yourself a treat in the form of a snack to motivate yourself to keep on going. By setting up a reward system, you’ll be able to train your brain to study for various time intervals. If you know that, around noon you promised yourself you’ll go to your favorite cafe and get scones, push yourself to that point so that when you do, you’ll be having a warranted break and reenergizing yourself for more studying later. It seems like a juvenile way to stay attentive, but sometimes you have to tap into your quirky side in order to balance out the seriousness of academia. And since everyone is different, even if you aren’t a huge foodie, reward yourself with a small token of self-gratitude so that you’ll remain in good spirits even as your eye bags deepen. Even if it’s a momentary break to catch your breath and go outside, it’s still a useful way to reorient yourself to handle more.

If perhaps you have a midterm on a Monday and your friends want to go out to dinner on the Saturday leading up to it, think about the consequences of stripping yourself away from studying for an hour or two. Breaking yourself away to have that social time isn’t going to make all of your progress vanish. Continuity has a way of fooling us and it’s easy to believe that if things aren’t done in rapid succession they’ll be easier to forget. But learning and retaining things in digestible chunks is always more wise than overloading the brain with massive info dumps. Reiterate to your friends that you have a midterm and set parameters about how long you’ll be out. You’ll need friends surrounding you that recognize your dedication to academics. Your friends will serve as another source of support to remind you of when to end the hangout and resume studying. No one should ever feel guilty about giving their mind a rest, so keep in mind that it is entirely okay to be social during midterm season.

In the end, midterms are what the individual makes of them. If you are consciously studying throughout the quarter, chunk by chunk, then you won’t even need to earnestly cram during the actual weeks of midterms. But for many of us who like to do that, it’s okay to know that breaks are still there to service us. Breaks allow our minds a period of relief while it sorts out all of the information we’ve been intaking. Even if you aren’t balancing a sprawling social life during test season, you can still find the time to rest in solitude. Have the courtesy to treat your brain to a healthy hiatus when you feel as though it can’t take anymore. Our brains are constantly working for us, so we need to make sure to thank it by giving it some time off.

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