It’s that time of the quarter again: we’ve hit midterm season. It’s no secret that for many of us, this quarter looks very different. Norbucks study spots, late nights in Deering or studying along the lakefill have been replaced by seemingly endless hours in your room. The differences in daily routine this quarter can add even more stress to what is typical of an exam season. Utilizing stress management skills during midterms has helped me both manage pressure and focus on enjoying classes and extracurriculars rather than feeling overwhelmed by responsibilities. If you find that you need to lighten your load, here’s a compiled list of suggestions to help ease the academic stress.

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Make lists

Lists can be a saving grace when assignments and midterms pile up. It is especially helpful to add tasks you can easily check off. (I like to add ‘make coffee’ to my list because I know I can check that off every morning.) Making a to-do list is a great way to put all that you need to get done in one place. One technique I use is “mind dumping” – writing down all your thoughts as they come to mind, and then looking over and organizing what you’ve written. In a similar way, if you're in a Zoom lecture and a bunch of deadlines are thrown at you at once, jotting it all down into a list and looking at it after class can be a huge help.


If you’re looking for a place to put all your lists, planners are a useful resource and have been shown to reduce stress by helping the user organize their schedule and ease the worry of forgetting a responsibility. When assignments are piling up and overlapping with each other, organizing your classes in a planner can help to relieve some of the midterm stress. I get a planner at the start of every year, and it has significantly helped me manage my time and plan out my days.


Going for a walk, a run, a bike ride or just moving around in some way is a good way to release endorphins and get rid of some stress. My personal favorite is going for a run and listening to upbeat music. As the weather gets colder, getting outside gets harder, but even just opening your curtains to let light in can help boost your mood and give you more energy. When winter comes and there’s not much light to let in, white light therapy is an effective alternative. Light therapy mimics sunlight exposure to help boost your mood and can also be used to treat seasonal affective disorder. You can buy your own light therapy lamp online from stores like Amazon, Target, and Walmart, or if you are in Evanston make an appointment and head to SPAC to use the one there!

Make time to relax

Plan ahead and set aside time in your day to relax. Do whatever helps you calm down: read a book, do a face mask, or set an alarm clock to take a quick power nap. (If you need more ideas, check out NBN’s self-care tips!)

Connect with others

Another way to relax is to spend time, at a safe social distance, with friends and family. Social support has been cited by Oxford Research Encyclopedias as an effective method in coping with stress, so connecting with a close network of peers is another great way to wind down and ease anxiety.

Ultimately, knowing your limits and being conscious of how you’re feeling is essential to managing mid-quarter stress. (Northwestern also provides their own list of resources such as CAPS, along with extra tips for managing academic stress if you’re looking for more advice.) When responsibilities seem to keep piling up, just remember you're amazing and crushing it.

Thumbnail photo "Mike Rohde's Custom Moleskine Planner"by Mike Rohde is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0