It’s 2 a.m. and you’re on the 6th floor of Davis Library, chugging Red Bulls and cramming for the test and presentation you have tomorrow – or is it today?

This scenario is a common one on campus.  With midterms and papers fast approaching, many students are nearing the breaking point.  At this point in the semester, it’s easy to become completely consumed by stress, which can affect your eating habits, exercise routine, sleeping patterns and mental health.  In times of stress, it’s important to stay calm, focused and optimistic. But have no fear – there are countless easy ways to relax and unwind.

Exercise

Working out is a great way to let off steam.  Do yoga in the quiet of your dorm room, go for a run around campus or participate in a group exercise class like Zumba or Cardio Pump. You’ll be able to briefly take your mind off of the things causing you stress while also doing something productive and healthy.  The endorphins exercise releases are known to improve mood, too.

Drink something

I’m not talking about alcoholic beverages.  Enjoying a warm drink on a chilly day can be a soothing treat. If possible, escape from the library for a few moments to clear your head and refuel.  Hot chocolate, lattes and green tea are just a few options.  I never feel calmer than when drinking coffee and people-watching in the Pit.

Forest Theatre

Spending time outside is a wonderful way to alleviate stress.  Fresh air and sunshine will make any bad day seem better. Whether walking through Coker Arboretum, sunbathing in Polk Place or sitting outside of the Daily Grind, stress will seem to drift away with the autumn breeze.

Sleep

Although we tend to get by on much less, it’s crucial that college students sleep for at least seven or eight hours per night.  Being well rested has been shown to improve cognitive functioning and academic performance.  Getting enough sleep is also necessary in that it helps to stabilize mood.  For example, sleep deprivation has been linked to depression.  It’s almost always better to study a little less if it means you can sleep a little more.

Take a break

If you’ve been studying for hours and think you will spontaneously combust if forced to read another sentence, it’s probably time for a study break.  Grab a healthy snack, watch a few minutes of TV or play a game. Sudoku and crossword puzzles are my personal favorites, but any other entertaining game or puzzle will suffice.  Just be careful your five-minute break doesn’t turn into an hour-long YouTube or Facebook session.

Listen to soothing music

Turn on your favorite channel on Pandora.com or go to stereomood.com, a website at which you can pick a playlist that corresponds to an emotion you’re feeling. Make a list of go-to songs in times of intense stress.  Close your eyes, take a few deep breaths and tune into the sound of the music.  When I’m a bundle of nerves, I listen to “Breathe Me” by Sia in order to release tension.

It’s easy to become overwhelmed by stress, but that doesn’t have to be the case.  If balancing academic pressure, extracurricular responsibilities and a social life is about to give you a mental breakdown, step back for a moment.  Do something that makes you feel calm, whether that may be walking around campus, reading a novel or listening to a favorite song. Before you know it, midterms will be over.

And then you can worry about finals.

– Georgia Cavanaugh