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Midterm Crisis


The attendance in the libraries has increased, Capen Café is running low on coffee, and students are sporting sweatpants and bags under their eyes, all thanks to one thing – midterms.

Dealing with the stress that accompanies midterms is a part of college that doesn't get taught in high school and is left out of the movies that show college as one big party. Although students sometimes deal with stress in negative ways – like binging on energy drinks or coffee – there are ways to deal with it that can be proactive.

Students at UB have different ways of dealing with midterms and the workload that accompanies them.

"How do I deal with midterms?" said Patrick Ryan, a junior marketing major. "It depends on the midterm. Usually procrastinate, and then study. Just cram, just cram."

In college, this is a common scenario. "Cramming," as most students know, is the act of "studying the day of [a test]," according to urbandictionary.com. For students like Ryan, that is the only way he can learn.

"If I'm being good [I start] probably two nights [ahead]," Ryan said. "If not, I probably study starting the evening before and just go through all the Power Points or whatever it may be until right before the test the following morning."

Cramming can be hit or miss for some students. Ally Geddes, a junior occupational therapy major, weighs out the pros and cons and knows that an information overload before a test can affect some students very differently than others.

"I don't tend to cram," Geddes said. "But I love index cards, diagrams, anything that I can just stare at. Any little bit that I can get in I try and get in."

Geddes considers herself a visual learner, meaning she can visualize the aspects she studied when taking a test to maximize her information retention. Helpful ways of studying for visual learners include making outlines, drawing diagrams, watching videos, color coding and looking at maps, according to homeworktips.about.com.

Being organized is also an important aspect of staying calm during midterms, according to Jackie Hall, an undecided freshman.

"I try to organize it so I'm not overwhelmed at the last minute," Hall said. "I use my agenda for the big things I have to do and then when I have a lot of things I write every single little detail on a piece of paper. I also like to write out my notes again. Rewriting it out helps me to memorize it."

Hall uses this organizational technique because she feels it helps her to remember what she needs to do and prioritize it accordingly. She believes writing out the notes increases the chances of retaining the information that she's studying.

One thing most students can agree on however is that sleep is the first to go when they need to sacrifice something. Sleep patterns can become very skewed and shortened, which can be dangerous for the learning process. If there aren't enough hours in the day, students start taking hours from the night. Paul Norris, a clinical psychology intern at UB counseling services, couldn't agree more.

"There is very good research evidence that if you don't get enough sleep your brain does not work as well and that makes it harder to learn," Norris said. "It really depends on the situation. There are people that can do that very effectively. I would say they are in the minority. For most people, that is not going to work very well."

Geddes, who stresses a lot about midterms, tends to lose sleep over them when they do finally come around. She feels that she has to stay up late the night before the test to make sure that she has studied all the information.

Hall is also one of countless students at UB in that same boat.

"I sleep less, I stay up later," Hall said. "I take naps every day. I'll take probably one long nap because I have practice in the morning at 7 a.m. and I have class after that so I just sleep whenever I can."

Some college students even stay up all night, known throughout the college student population as the "all-nighter." Geddes, Hall, and Ryan have all pulled all-nighters before with different opinions on their effectiveness.

In Hall's opinion, staying up all night helped her feel confident for her test even though she was extremely tired afterward. Ryan tends to agree with Hall, even after a significant one-time mishap back when he was at Virginia Tech.

"I drank four 20-ounce energy drinks and I was pulling an all-nighter and instead of studying I ended up throwing up," Ryan said. "I had to tell my teacher I was sick and missed the midterm the next morning."

Geddes agrees that all-nighters can make you feel terrible the next day but for different reasons than Ryan. She thinks that there is a balance between studying and feeling like garbage the next day.

As the stress is piling up, a quick and easy fix is to take a moment to breathe.

"The way most people breathe is they breathe into the top of their lungs and they breathe fairly quickly," Norris said. "If you put your hand on your stomach and try to breathe so your hand moves you are going to be using all of your lungs. That is going to slow your breathing, increase the amount of oxygen you take in, and trigger a positive common reflex."

Daily exercise is another way to relieve stress. Besides having the short-term effect of making someone feel better, Norris said that it is helpful in brain functioning.

"One thing you want to do is to notice what helps you," Norris said. "What are the techniques you already use and decide if those actually work or not. Some techniques are very effective, some techniques are effective short-term but really counterproductive long term, and some techniques backfire."

One commonly used short-term technique that can produce negative long-term effects is called self-medicating. Self-medicating is a term used to describe the use of drugs, including alcohol or other self-soothing forms of behavior to deal with stress or anxiety, according to researchgate.net.

"Some forms of stress are unavoidable," Norris said. "Being a student, you are going to have tests and other responsibilities."

Norris urges students to come to the UB Counseling Center if they feel they need help, especially with drugs and alcohol. Pamphlets are always available at the office, which cover topics such as test anxiety, procrastination, and time management. Norris also reminds students that having complete control over their lives and stress is impossible, as it will only cause more stress as a result.

Email: features@ubspectrum.com



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