How To Pick Yourself Up When School Has You Feeling Miserable

If you’re a college student like me, it’s midterm season. And if you’re human like me, the pressure is on.

In the past two weeks, I’ve spent my days trudging to class and my nights at the dining room table, working on getting everything I’ve learned in the past two months to “stick” in my head. Three midterms, two weeks. Sounds doable, right? Right. 

Until it isn’t.

In between extracurriculars, charity fundraisers, and checking your personal/professional/school email, it always feels like there aren’t nearly enough hours in the day to get everything done. Even if you’ve made progress, it feels akin to chipping away at a tree with a pick-ax: it’s just not enough. If you’ve jumped a hurdle, you still have to conquer a hill, and boy, does this hill go on for miles.

As I like to say, (with a strangled cry), “midterm season starts and never really ends.” At this time in the term, you’ve got tests, and assignments, and quizzes, and “optional participation activities” that are not-really-optional because you best believe I’m going to take every mark I can get.

Needless to say, it gets a little stressful. What’s worse is having your marks come back after all of your hard work, only to be ravaged all over again.

I can tell you that I haven’t crawled into bed before 3:00 a.m. for more than a few nights, and that I’ve spent their subsequent days waking at roughly 8:00 a.m. I can say that I’ve fallen asleep with my notes in my hand, more than once, in an attempt to get in one last read-through, one last review session. I can also point out that, contrary to what my professor has assumed of the portion of the class who scored lower than the average, I did attend every class, I did take notes, and I did answer each of the study questions.

This is, perhaps, the worst part of all: having tried so, so hard, studied endlessly, meticulously, earnestly – only to be beaten to a pulp. I’m not talking about that thick, chunky kind of pulp you find in freshly squeezed orange juice. I’m talking about the thin, ultra-strained kind of pulp that’s been processed so fine that it can hardly be classified as pulp anymore.

Sometimes we can’t help but linger on the what-if’s and the I-KNEW-that’s, but turning the situation over in your mind can’t change the numbers you’ve been given. I’ve been-there-done-that, too many times to count. What we can do is pick ourselves up after the fact.

I find that three things are a must after an academic assessment really knocks you in the knees: Friends, sleep, and a night spent doing something you enjoy.

Friends are almost an instant antidote. Having them around gives you a chance to express how you really feel, and they’re ready to listen with a well-attuned ear about how well – or poorly – you truly did. More importantly, good friends make for a judgement-free zone and letting it out is ten times better than holding your icky feelings in. Then, they can cheer you up, make you laugh, and take your mind off of the inferno that is college stress, even for a little while.

Sleep is a necessity, just, all the time. Since it seems like students split their time between sleeping and eating, you would think that we’d be well rested. However, we have an uncanny ability for going to bed past midnight when we have class at 8:00 a.m. the next day. This wild talent is only amplified during midterm season, and the same goes for term paper deadlines. So, give yourself a chance to rest and recuperate. Not only does your brain function better when you give it a rest, but your body will thank you. Immunity decreases when you’re under increased and prolonged stress, and getting a good night’s rest to recover (or investing in a really long nap) is a gift your body will thank you for – now and later.

Finally, allow yourself some time to do something fun. You don’t have to get dressed up; you don’t even have to leave the house. You can decide to jam out to something other than your study playlist, do your hair, or take Netflix for a spin. If you want to go out, then party your heart out or treat yourself to an all-you-can-eat sushi buffet. Whatever makes you happy, do it. 

And isn’t that the never-ending paradox?

It can feel like it: you’re in school, to do something you love, but the let-downs can make you miserable. Truly, I understand you. The first thing I said to my friend after getting my midterm mark back was: “I feel like the episode in Lizzie McGuire where she really likes gymnastics but is really bad at it, but she does it anyways.” To the credit of my friend, she proceeded to insist that I “[wasn’t] really bad at it!!” and I love her for it. At the end of the day, even after the sleeping, and the friending, and the doing-things-you-enjoy, sometimes all a student needs to hear is that they’re not too bad. It sounds simple, and not all that reassuring, but when you’ve tried your best and it doesn’t seem like it was enough, we just need to know that we will be okay.

We’ll be a-okay.

On top of everything, this isn’t “welcome to the rest of your life.” This is “welcome to a speed bump”: You study on a “high,” marks come back, and your stomach can drop down to a “low.” The rest is up to you. You’re behind the wheel of your own life, and you’ve always been there. You’ve just hit an unexpected rattle in the road. You’ll figure it out, and maybe one day, you’ll be able to crest the hill, set up camp, park your car, and stay a while.

Originally written by Ashley Nicholas on Unwritten

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