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Beating the Midterm Blues

By Sam Werger, 4th year History student

The end of October, as we know all too well, is quite a busy time of the school year for most of us. Assignments are beginning to pile up. Due dates that seemed so far away in September are rapidly approaching. Midterms abound. To top it all off winter is in the air and the inevitable grey skies and slushy streets are inching closer and closer. All of this can be daunting and it can be all too easy to get down on yourself during this hectic time of year. But there are some simple things we can all do to stay positive and beat the midterm blues.

Take breaks. This may seem counter-intuitive to some of us but it is all too important. We may think we lack the time to take breaks:

“Breaks?! I don’t have time to take a break! I NEED to study for 8 hours straight for my midterm exam on Friday.”

While regular review is immensely important in achieving academic success, it is not the only element of good study habits. Breaks are an absolute must when studying. If you’ve ever been so fortunate to hear a PLA presentation you probably know about the 50/10 rule. For those of you who have not been so fortunate allow me to explain. The 50/10 rule stipulates that you should study for 50 minutes then take a 10-minute break. Since studies have shown that the brain, on average, retains the first 25 minutes of studying and the last 25 minutes the 50/10 rule will boost your focus and help you retain more information. Additionally, the 50/10 rule will keep you out of the doldrums of marathon study sessions. Not only will your focus improve but your overall mood will be more positive if you take productive breaks. Don’t just watch a ten minute YouTube video; go outside and take a stroll down University Avenue or grab a cup of tea in the ARC. This type of active break will keep you refreshed and focused over long study periods.

The 10-minute break is great but sometimes a more substantial break is needed. Too often, we can get trapped in the habit of sitting in Stauffer all day long. This can be productive when done properly (i.e. using the 50/10 rule) but sometimes it’s just too much and can actually be counterproductive. As the days get shorter it isn’t uncommon for many students to see very little sunlight around this time of year. Furthermore, too many of us begin to neglect our mental and physical health. Sitting all day hunched over a laptop is simply not a sustainable practice. The human body requires exercise to keep it healthy. Take a long walk, enjoy the fresh air by the lake, hit the gym for a quick workout, and take the time to cook yourself a nice meal. The key is to stay fresh and energized physically. This will translate into a more positive mood, increased mental alertness and focus, and will improve your studying.

Mental health is especially important at all times of year and during this time of year it can be especially difficult to maintain. It is so easy to get down on yourself this time of year and to dwell on your shortcomings. Even if you’re taking care of your physical health your mental health could still be dragging behind. First, remember that you are not alone. Call your best friend. Call your parents. Call your grandparents (they love when you call). The people who love you the most will always be there to support you. Your emotional well-being is so important and it can have an effect on your academic success. Never hesitate to reach out to your loved ones for support. Try your best to stay positive and remember that this will all soon pass. Keep on working hard and taking the time to take care for yourself. We’re lucky at Queen’s to have people -professionals and volunteers- who want to help you. Don’t hesitate to reach out to the many Queen’s services. Of course, the PLA’s have great learning strategies to help you succeed. There is also the Peer Support Centre and there are professionals on campus who want to help you, such as Student Health.


Photos courtesy of Queen’s University under Flickr Creative Commons Attribution license 2.0