5 Tips to Beat the Mid-Semester Blues & Stay Motivated

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It’s finally March, winter is finally (and seriously, this time!) coming to a close, and spring break is quickly approaching. While some unlucky students have finals in the next two weeks, the majority of us are quickly being lulled into a complacency that only the mid-semester slump can bring. Though I fall in the former camp, I still find myself utterly unmotivated, even in light of major research papers that I have barely started and finals that I should start studying for, all of which are due in just over a week.

While the apathy bug seems to be afflicting everyone around you, you don’t need to suffer from it as well!  Here are five tips to beat the mid-semester blues and get motivated:

1.  Reward yourself.

One of the defining characteristics of the mid-semester blues is feeling overworked, with seemingly no end in sight. In order to alleviate this listlessness, try and set up little rewards for every goal that you accomplish, proportionate to the importance of the task itself. Finish reading those two chapters in your Intro to Macroeconomics textbook? Get thee to a bakery and indulge in that scone you were eying this morning. Finally complete that twenty page term paper on 19th century Chinese politics and government? Buy that dress on Modcloth that has been sitting in your cart for who knows how long.

Of course, I certainly don’t advocate doing this for everything or doing it all the time. Setting up a reward system can backfire pretty quickly when it comes to intrinsic motivation. (Plus, whose wallet can really afford it?) However, for those tasks that you need an extra push to accomplish, rewarding yourself with some shopping, or just the latest episode of Glee won't hurt.

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2. Practice time management.

Another common affliction that students suffer during this time of year is feeling completely overwhelmed by the sheer amount of work that needs to get done. You have an Orgo midterm next Tuesday, a ten page paper on The Sound and the Fury due next Thursday, and a presentation on the Civil Rights movement for next Friday -- and you haven’t started or began preparing for any of them. Faced with this conundrum, many people will often work themselves up and exacerbate their already heightened stress (really bad idea) or mentally check out and procrastinate (even worse idea).

Instead of taking the fight or flight route, consider a third option: figure outhow you can reallocate your time. You’re right in thinking there's not enough time to do everything that needs to get done, but that doesn’t mean you still can’t get the important things finished. Reorganize your schedule and cut out things that can wait the next day, or even next week. If this means skipping out on movie night with your friends this Saturday night or even skipping that Applied Statistics II lecture (shhh!), then by all means, do what needs to be done. Prioritize and do the most important things first. The rest will fall into place.

3. However, don’t sacrifice your health.

When reorganizing your schedule, don't forget to keep yourself as a priority. Just because you’ve decided to skip that club meeting doesn’t mean you can do the same for your seven to eight hours of sleep. Mid-semester blues are only compounded with a lack of sleep, poor eating habits, and a “skip the gym today” workout routine. Sadly, one of the main reasons that most college students are able to juggle all their activities is because it’s at the expense of something that they shouldn’t be sacrificing: their health.

Don't get me wrong: I'm also guilty of occasionally staying up until 3 am to finish the reading for a 9 am class. But then I wake up five hours later feeling completely drained, making the entire endeavor worthless. Next time you find yourself starting to pull a late-nighter for anything, honestly answer this question:  is it really worth it? Ninety-five percent of the time, you’ll find yourself remembering that there are only a small handful of things more important than taking care of yourself.

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4. Take time to relax -- and don't feel guilty over it.

So right now, you’re overworked, overwhelmed, and practicing some not-so great health habits. You can’t slow down, there’s too much to do that’s due at the same exact time to let yourself watch some TV show, sleep, or even eat. Yet you’re still burnt out and unmotivated, even though you know there’s an increasing list of things to do.

This advice may sound weird, but if you're really burnt out, don’t do those tasks right now. Take twenty minutes to go outside and catch some sunshine while it’s still out today. Go next door to catch up with a friend or phone a friend from home for an hour. Make your significant other give you a massage. Do whatever you need to do, just relax while doing so. Most importantly, don’t let your guilt get in the way of enjoying your break. Those twenty minutes will rejuvenate you - you’ll come back with renewed motivation, and will be more able to tackle your workload.

5. Take a step back and just breathe.

Personally, I think one of the reasons why college students get the mid-semester blues is due to a loss of perspective. It’s easy to get bogged down by juggling four different clubs, a part-time job, internships, a full course load, and trying to keep up a decent social life.

However, it’s important to take a moment to remember that while things are incredibly stressful and difficult right now, this too shall pass.  We will not be college students forever, we’ll soon learn that there are no midterms in life (not multiple choice ones, at least), and soon, we’ll have bigger (and more important) things to worry about - and get excited over!

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What do you think?

What do you do to keep yourself motivated, healthy, and relaxed? Do you find yourself afflicted with the mid-semester blues? What helps you when you’re feeling stressed and school is getting crazy? Which of these tips will you be trying first, if any? Leave a comment and let me know!

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