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We are Halfway There: Self-Reflection and Good Habits By: Molly Gibbons

Currently, my stress and anxiety levels have been rising as the semester progresses. Students have reached the halfway point of the semester, and with this time comes feelings of stress and exhaustion for many students. After a fun and much-needed fall break, it's time to get back to work to finish the semester. At such a time, it's easy to feel overwhelmed and caught up in numerous assignments and deadlines, and I, for one, am among those students feeling the heat and pressure. During these moments when you can feel out of control due to constant expectations, it's important to take time to care for your mental health and incorporate healthy habits into your daily routine.

It's easy to become consumed by the demands of student life, especially during a period when it seems there's no time for preparation, organization, and self-evaluation. Fortunately, some small tips and practices can be easily integrated into your daily routine to make a day of classes and assignments feel less stressful and lead to a smoother end to the semester.

So, how can we ease this stress and manage the rest of the semester?

  1. Simple Breathing Techniques: This may seem obvious and trivial, but implementing simple breathing techniques throughout the day is an easy way to immediately lower your stress levels. First, ensure you are sitting or standing in a comfortable posture, then allow yourself to inhale fully through the nose for about five seconds, and exhaling through the mouth creates a calming and zen feeling. Repeat this breathing exercise until you reach the state of calm you desire.

  2. Daily To-Do Lists: Whether it's on your calendar, notes app, or a pad of paper, write down the tasks that need to be accomplished for the day. This small organization at the beginning of the day creates something you can rely on and also provides a sense of accomplishment when you check off tasks throughout the day as they are completed.

  3. Journaling: The practice of journaling takes any emotions that are bottled up in your head and transcribes them onto paper. Setting aside time before bed at the end of the day or week to write about how you are feeling or anything you've experienced can serve as a therapeutic way to express suppressed emotions. The writing doesn't have to be eloquent or even make sense because this journal is a communication tool for your eyes only, a private aspect of your life where you can safely talk about what may or may not be bothering you.

  4. Get Moving: Any form of exercise is a great way to gain mental clarity and boost serotonin levels. Daily exercise doesn't have to be as intense as lifting weights and spending hours at the gym; it can be as simple as going for a walk or stretching at the end of the day.

  5. Enjoy the Fresh Outdoors: Feeling confined in a classroom or staring at a computer screen can be draining, so try to make time for some beautiful fresh air during the day. Take an extra walk around campus between classes, or choose to study or eat outside (unless it's freezing or raining) and allow the fresh air to work its magic.

  6. Self-Reflection: While feeling stressed, it's easy to forget what you have accomplished and what internal goals you've set for yourself. Take time to reflect on positive accomplishments throughout the semester and evaluate your academic progress to determine what goals and expectations should be set to finish the semester.

You are not alone in feeling overwhelmed and stressed, but you are capable of regaining your confidence and being the student you know you can be, and more. Incorporating all of these tips and habits isn't necessary to get back on track, but using just one can be helpful in many ways and can help you manage academic stress.

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