A Midterm Mental Health Check


“Kat’s Mental Health Column” is a bi-weekly column that delves into all things mental health. (Courtesy of Cory Bork/The Fordham Ram)

Somehow, we’re already in the midst of midterms week. As we tackle yet another exam season, continue to check in with your mental health. As tempting as it may be to just throw yourself headfirst into your work, make sure you’re allotting plenty of time for self care.

Let’s start with what likely feels like the most pressing matter: the exams themselves. Since it’s the middle of the week, you’ve likely already completed a few of them. No matter how you did, don’t get too caught up in it. Instead, focus on what you will do going forward and get organized to help yourself succeed. Know what’s coming up and when it’s due, and try to schedule times to work on it. Don’t hesitate to reach out to your professors. They can likely offer you guidance and advice to help your work feel less daunting or even offer extensions if you’re really struggling.

More importantly, though, recognize that school is not your only priority right now. Of course, it may feel that way, but the presence of midterms does not mitigate the importance of your mental health. As you make your study plan, make sure to prioritize checking in on your mental health. You don’t necessarily have to schedule a separate block of time for self care (though if you can, you should), but at least make a little note in the margin of the page as a reminder to be mindful. 

If you feel so overwhelmed that you don’t have a single minute to spare, try to incorporate some self care into the plans you’ve already built into your schedule. For example, treat your morning coffee as time away from schoolwork. Don’t anxiously scroll through Blackboard as you wait for the Keurig to warm up. Instead, try to spend that time doing something you enjoy or at the very least taking a break from the constant notifications. Even two minutes spent focusing on your mental health can make a huge difference; it really helps you recenter and refocus.

Another thing you should allow yourself to do is take real breaks regularly. While studying endlessly might feel like the only way to succeed, the reality of the situation is that you will be more successful if you give your brain time to relax. Think of it as analogous to exercise — every expert recommends at least one rest day a week. And, just like your body, your brain needs a chance to rest too. Giving it some time off helps it really mull over the information you’ve been feeding it and make stronger connections, just like a sore muscle ready to rebuild itself stronger. If you don’t feel comfortable taking an entire day off, that’s okay. Incorporate it when you can for whatever time period feels right and remind yourself that breaks are just as important as the studying itself. Some ideas to help you clear your head during these breaks are going for a walk and enjoying the fresh, sunny weather, following a guided meditation or taking a steaming hot shower and putting on your favorite sweatshirt. If you have a certain activity that you prefer as your go-to self care, go for it. It doesn’t have to be complicated or Instagram worthy, it just needs to be for you.

Practice self care after midterms are over, too. No matter how you do, celebrate coming out on the other side. Exam seasons are never easy, particularly in this time of heightened uncertainty. What’s of ultimate importance (not just during exams, but at all times) is your mental health, not any grade. You’ve worked hard, done your best and for that, you deserve recognition. It may feel silly, but take the time to appreciate all the effort you’ve put in. Truly reflect and give yourself credit, and do some self care to recharge. Maybe now you have the time to catch up on your favorite podcast, read that book that’s been sitting on your shelf for weeks or make a delightful home cooked meal that will satisfy all those cravings. No matter what you choose to do, please continue to be mindful of your mental health and take the time to do whatever you need. Your mental health matters. Don’t forget that, and don’t let it slip into the background as you focus on “more important” aspects of your life. Stay happy and healthy and good luck!