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The Daily Tar Heel

Column: Learning to handle stress during midterms, not cure it


I was wrong. 

Last semester, I wrote articles about how to live your best life. Past me would have said they were much deeper than that, but I have the hindsight to say they were basically my internal monologue combined with kitchen-table advice. 

I wrote about topics ranging from fostering a good relationship with roommates to how to take an "L" with grace to why the work week is basically the new weekend. At the time, they were applicable. But that was just for a specific, isolated period in my life. Had I known that things such as my surroundings and circumstances change, I would have made my statements a little bit more thought out. 

The work week (or the weekend, at that) hasn't felt like the weekend since the semester started. 

This semester, I’ve taken an unbeknownst, astronomical amount of Ls. Pretty much nonstop and against my will. No matter what I do. I’ve been putting those tips and tricks from my article to the test. A little bit too much. 

For example, I am currently in my eighth week in a row of midterms. How this has happened, I have no clue. They just came one after another after another and I haven’t had the chance to exhale since January. I finish one midterm and I’m already behind on my next one.

And on some of these, I dedicated all my energy to studying and got the worst grades I have ever gotten on exams. I tried to work with my “L contract”: if I put my all into something, the outcome was out of my control. But there comes a point when things just become frustrating and it feels like that’s that. 

Constantly putting all of your effort into something and getting bad results feels bad. It really really sucks and feels bad and is bad and smells and tastes bad and leaves me wondering how to switch my major or move abroad. 

It wasn’t until Spring Break when I spent more than 24 hours without worrying about an assignment, that I realized I had completely lost myself in the midterms. I felt like a real person again and was determined to hold onto that newfound spunk.

So, my “let’s feel like a real person during the never-ending midterms season” began. I asked my friends what they do to feel like a real person when caught up in schoolwork. I got recommendations like “take a bath” and “try this flavor of ice cream” or "go somewhere that makes you feel small and insignificant.”

I really thought the “go somewhere that makes you feel small and insignificant” thing would work. I drove to Jordan Lake late at night and looked at the big body of water and the sky and how they combined to make a big dark blob. 

I said, "make me feel insignificant please."

Make me feel useless, which will, in turn, make my midterms feel useless, which means I won’t have bad grades.  

Do this, lake, and I will be useful and young and alive again.

And the lake said, "no." 

Taking action is always my go-to. When I feel a problem bubbling, I squash it before it breaches the surface. But when problems breach from all around like whack-a-mole, going on a walk won’t help. 

Yes, my advice last semester was applicable — to some people at certain times. But my “action first” attitude might be why I have so little training in coexisting with the stressors in my life. 

This week, I am going to be stressed during my midterms. 


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