Even after six years of a successful university life, midterm season still stresses me out. When tests pile up one after the other and time always seems scarce, it’s so easy to get carried away. My mind always magnifies it into a do or die situation and I start doubting myself and my future… big time!
In this ultra-competitive world, we are under so much pressure to always be at the top. Whether it is from our parents, our teachers, our friends, colleagues – or, as in my case, our own self. Since I can remember, I’ve always thought of each test, assignment, exam as a huge milestone, where I just had to be at the top, and most of the time, I have succeeded. But there have been times when I haven’t quite lived up to those high standards and I’ve still been fine. So was it really necessary to take on so much pressure and stress?
When you’re sitting in the middle of a pile of notes that you have to sort through, with a half completed assignment, three tests coming up and you don’t even know where to begin, it’s very easy to lose your focus and start beating yourself up with a string of “what ifs”. No matter how early you start studying, it’s bound to happen. How should we cope with those moments?
Pull yourself away from the situation a little. Yes, yes, I know every minute of study time is precious and you feel guilty even going for a bathroom break, but nevertheless, force yourself to get up for five minutes. That’s better than spending those 5 minutes working yourself up even more. Go for a walk, make yourself a cup of coffee, call up a friend to talk about the latest movie, do something completely different. Then come back to the work with a fresh mind.
Make a list and break your work into manageable chunks. Maybe you need to spend more time on one subject than another. For example, I’m really stressed about my PhD macro test, so I’ve broken it up into topics. It’s another thing that I may not be able to stick to the plan, but just writing the topics down makes it seem much more manageable. As I check off the things I’ve reviewed it also motivates me to keep going.
Most of all, remember that even getting to where you are now speaks volumes about your ability. The fact that you got into a great university, a recognized program and are taking responsibility for your education is huge. So feel good about yourself. Give yourself a little pat on the back, and believe that if you got here, you can go further too. Do your best but remember, it’s not the end of the world. There’s always a lot of different ways to get to where you want to go. No matter how much your Prof wants you to believe that if you don’t ace his course you’ll flip burgers for the rest of your life, that’s not going to happen. You will eventually get where you want to go, whether it’s a graduate program or your dream job, trust me. So relax a bit, keep a positive attitude, work hard but go easy on yourself. After all, it’s just an exam - you’ve handled tons before, you can handle this one too.
Which brings me to the end of my break. I should get back to understanding the theorems of dynamic programming in macroeconomics. But guess what, I feel a lot more confident about it now.
This blog post has been written by Samra Zafar. Click here to learn more about Samra.