Photo by Alberto G. (CC)
“We are all mad here,” says the Cat from Alice. But if I have learned anything these past four weeks, it is that UCLA is anything but Wonderland. On the first day of classes, I walked into Powell Library for the first time at 9:00 a.m. I could not believe my eyes as I saw students hustling and bustling about, looking like they were in the middle of finals week. I thought to myself, “What the heck could they be intensely highlighting at 9:00 a.m. on the first day of classes? Is today not just syllabus day? And why do you have ten textbooks when you have only had one class so far, if any at all?”
Sorry I judged you, lady with the cool highlighters — and if you are reading this, any chance you have old Psych 100A exams?
Brace yourselves, people! With midterms just days away and no old exams in sight, we are in the midst of some of the most stressful moments of the quarter. Our stomachs are up in knots; our sleep is disrupted by formulas and facts running through our tired minds; by the time the teacher slaps those tests on our desks, we cannot tell north from south.
Who says we need to wait until after the exam to get a pat on the back? If anything, I could use one right now! If no one is around to give you one, there is no need to worry. I have got multiple, natural, easy de-stressors that will take the edge off and help you not go meshuga!
1. Visualize yourself succeeding, and learn what works for you: How did you study last time you did well on an exam? From my own experience, I have learned that I can concentrate and perform well when studying at a coffee shop. Knowing this enables me to “get in the zone” quickly without getting restless. I am not really sure why this works; I even put headphones on just to muffle out sound when I could be sitting in a perfectly quiet room at home. But that is where I can concentrate and see myself doing well on the exam, so I continue to reinforce it. Have you done well studying in groups? Reach out to classmates to form a study group. Flashcards? Yes, they may be tedious, but you learned all you needed to just from writing them last time; do it again. Whatever helps.
2. Drink less coffee and drink chamomile instead: Chamomile tea is known for its soothing and calming qualities. It can definitely ease any jittery nerves you have while studying, and more importantly, while you try to sleep. Let the chamomile bag soak in hot water, drink up and feel good. Whatever you do, ditch the coffee this time around.
3. Get off social media! I know that I, for one, spend an unhealthy amount of time scrolling mindlessly through different social media apps, both first thing in the morning and last thing before going to bed. Avoiding social media not only removes a distraction, but it also gives you a chance to give yourself well earned break-times after long periods of studying.
4. Leave time for breaks: While you might feel like you need to spend consecutive hours absorbing information, set time to do things you enjoy to prevent getting antsy. Even if this just means setting aside moments to day dream and not think about your notes, go ahead and do so! I personally find that spending time with family always gives me a good laugh and takes me out of my head. Play an instrument? Your break is a good time to practice or listen to some music. Feel like your shoulders are up in knots? Get into a warm bath with essential oils (try lavender, you will not be sorry). And if you spend all of your time studying indoors, use a break time to go for a stroll around the neighborhood. Have a dog? It’s walk time for them too! Deep breathing and a little exercise in nature will open your mind and lungs, giving you clarity and optimal focus to be mindful while studying.
5. After you took time to relax and be present, the ultimate way to find peace is this: have faith in G-d. A little prayer can go a long way. I always turn to Tehilim (Psalms) Chapter 121 when I need the Big Guy in the sky by my side.
In the end, pick one of these strategies or any other that works for you, and own it — happy studying!