Don’t forget self-care during midterms

By Allison Dantinne, For The Pitt News

Students let coffees slip out of their shaking hands and watch as the drinks splatter all over the sidewalk on the way to lectures. They lie in the new, lovely green space at 10:16 p.m., right when the sprinklers come on, just to feel something. Every conversation ends with “sometimes it be like that,” as free will and motivation becomes a soft, summer dream and the only empathy we can offer to each other in these trying times is to say “same.”

Midterm season is upon us.

I spend the season much like other students do. I head to the fourth floor of Hillman Library early enough to get a table with an outlet, my contraband box of lo mein in hand. I attempt to work for 10 hours straight, writing page after page of essays by promising myself an episode of “Parks and Recreation” once I’ve reached a word count goal. Then, around 4 a.m., when everyone else has left and the library feels like it’s on the edge of the Earth, I take a short nap on the table.

And the cycle continues until I finish all my work.

But for many students, midterm season doesn’t end when tests are graded and eight-page papers grace their professors’ desks. The fear of failing or not doing as well as anticipated can loom over students and may contribute to problems later in the semester.

This feeling, no matter how personal or painful, is universal and justified. Midterms are the first major marker of progress in a class, a time when large projects are graded and students can begin to anticipate their grades. We all receive grades we aren’t proud of — everyone feels this way at some point.

These grades aren’t the end of the world. They’re not a reflection of who any of us are — they reflect only how we performed that day. At this point in the semester, a poor grade can be fixed.

But it’s easy to feel like they can’t be fixed, and that they may be a reflection of our self-worth. Lackluster grades can be a heavy weight. Luckily, Pitt offers many resources to help students understand and cope with these feelings during this time.

Pitt offers Express Your Stress workshops at the Center for Creativity in the lower level of the University Bookstore. In these monthly one-hour workshops, students create art to support their mental wellness. These workshops are free and welcoming to all students, regardless of artistic level.

Students who feel better after cuddling with some furry friends can head to the Cathedral of Learning for Therapy Dog Tuesdays. The College Canine Program at the University of Pittsburgh brings calm, friendly pups eager for pats to the first floor from 7 to 8 p.m. for members of the Pitt community to relax with.

[Read: Therapy dogs bring contentment and comfort to campus]

For those who experience test anxiety — especially when they’re worth so much of our final grades the Wellness Center offers Managing Test Anxiety workshops. The workshops began Oct. 8 and continue through December. They aim to inform students about the effects high-stress situations — like midterm exams — have on students and they teach strategies to effectively manage high levels of stress. They’re approximately an hour long and take place Mondays at 3 p.m. in the Wellness Center inside of Nordenberg Hall. Registration for these events is not required.

If your schedule is tight — or your bed is just too comfortable — online academic success workshops may be the way to go. Students can access workshops on study skills, time management, goal setting and reducing testing anxiety, all via their Pitt accounts on the StudentLingo system.

While strategies and workshops can help ease anxiety associated with midterms, sometimes the feeling is too much. Maybe an hour painting watercolors doesn’t quite soothe your mind as much as you’d like. For lasting feelings of failure and anxiousness, the Counseling Center offers a variety of counseling and therapy sessions, which may help with long-term coping and understanding the root cause of any issues. Appointments are easy to set up — details are available on the Counseling Services website.

Midterms also fall during Pitt’s Mental Health Awareness Month. Throughout the month, Pitt features various services and events that aren’t usually offered during the year, such as a diversity and mental health roundtable with University counselors, a mental health vigil and a self-care fair. Details regarding these events and many others can be found on Pittwire listed under Mental Health Awareness Month Events.

Midterms are hard. They’re stressful. The season makes the campus collectively feel run down, as students gently stagger back to their homes to experience a universal joy — sleeping without setting an alarm. The feelings of disappointment and anxiety associated with midterms can be long lasting, but they aren’t worth holding onto. There’s no shame in reaching out for help.