I think it’s safe to say that the second half of the semester ensues a different level of stress in the lives of college students. This particular time is when things begin to ramp up and motivation tends to fall. Some might be feeling more homesick as we await Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks, while others might face increased anxiety regarding upcoming midterms or projects. Regardless of the specific cause, it seems that a lack of motivation or exhaustion is something that college students commonly struggle with during this time.
Specifically speaking, I believe this is even more so the case when it comes to the fall semester. Maybe I say this due to my utter hatred for the cold or how I am personally affected by the seasonal change in regards to my mental health. Nonetheless, it seems as if the shift away from warm weather worsens feelings of burnout at this point of the semester.
I realize we are a little past the midpoint as we conclude what is the 10th week of the current semester while I write this. Be that as it may, it seems that this mid-semester slump is very much still present — and I am sure many of you reading this agree.
If you find yourself feeling a little overwhelmed by your current course load, stressed about the amount of exams you have to prepare for in a short period of time or even just anxiously awaiting the conclusion of the semester, I hope this serves as a reminder that you’re not alone. You are not alone in experiencing insurmountable stress caused by school nor are you alone in the fight to combat that stress.
In fact, that is why I am writing to you today. From my own personal experience — some of which I might be going through myself right now — it is easy to feel defeated from the “mid-semester slump.” However, you are more than capable of refocusing as well as recentering in order to combat this slump and achieve your goals from the start of the semester.
I have found that the first step to turn things around is acceptance — accepting that things have been difficult and that you’ve been struggling. I realize that sounds somewhat of an extreme way of thinking and borderline a mantra out of an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Let me explain what I mean — by recognizing that you are indeed in a slump, it reframes your mindset for how to tackle all the exams and other commitments that lie ahead of you.
After accepting that you are indeed in a bit of a slump, the next step is fostering a growth mindset. In short, this means developing a game plan by breaking down all the daunting tasks into smaller, more attainable goals. I find that by detailing the small parts of one assignment or goal, I am able to feel more in control of what’s ahead of me and thus feel more capable of achieving it.
Additionally, I really want to emphasize the importance and benefit of asking for help. Asking for help doesn’t have to be anything large or super formal. All it means is that you are relying on your personal or academic support system to help get you where you want to be. I often feel like there’s a stigma in doing so which frustrates me. Help is not something that should be ostracized — if anything, it should be encouraged to not only facilitate a conducive learning environment, but also to remind one another that we are not alone in our battles.
Aside from those more logistical ways to help make it through the slump of the middle of the semester, I want to emphasize the importance of implementing self-care. Since your mind and body work in unison to optimize your well being, it is essential to take care of both during stressful times as well as those that are non-stressful.
In such stressful times, it is so easy to forget to do the simplest things to take care of yourself such as getting adequate sleep, staying hydrated or even remembering to move your body. This can have detrimental effects on your health both short-term as well as long-term. Personally speaking, I struggle with this greatly as I often find myself victim to not taking care of myself and suffer the consequences which usually are frequent periods of illness or severe migraines.
By taking care of your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing, you can recharge to complete all that you need to. Self-care may look different for everyone, but the positive effects of having a healthy mind and body as a result of taking care of yourself are almost identical. For example, getting adequate sleep promotes better cognitive function, and exercise can release endorphins which contribute to boosting your mood. These and other methods of self-care will significantly improve your overall well-being which can aid in overcoming stress..
It’s rather unfortunate that this heightened period of stress — that often is related to or results in burnout — is something that is almost normalized within college students. Over my last two years, I have found that experiencing heightened stress and exhaustion related to academics are far too normalized at the University. I want to say this is related to the infamous competitive culture that is present on Grounds, but that is just a personal guess.
As students, I think we can either play the role of further perpetuating the competitive culture or combatting it. Ideally you’d be doing the latter but in stressful times as such, it can be easy to project one’s own struggles with burnout through comparison with others. Next time you hear your friends talking about how little they slept the night before an exam or how many hours they spent on a project, I hope that’s something that you’ll think of and act upon differently.
In the midst of the craziness of the semester, never lose sight of how far you have come and all that you have accomplished. You’ve made it this far — which is a huge accomplishment in itself — and with a rejuvenated mindset, you will make it to the end as well. In the event that you forget that, this column will be there for you as a reminder.
Zoya Zahid is a Life Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.