Survive Midterm Stress and Rock Your Recovery
March 1, 2019
It’s that time of year again. If you’re in college, you know exactly what I mean. Yep, midterms. And what goes hand in hand with midterms? Stress! Unfortunately, that midterm stress is all-too-often correlated with substance misuse. Whether that means a shot of vodka to help calm shaky nerves, or a line of Adderall to keep students alert during an all-nighter, midterms are notoriously correlated with drug and alcohol use. But they don’t have to be. It is, in fact, possible to maintain your recovery and get through midterms! Here are a few simple tricks for alleviating midterm stress the natural way.
I know, if you don’t already have a regular fitness routine, adding something to your schedule right now probably sounds counter-intuitive. But I’m not saying you have to start crossfit training. Even a short 10 to 20-minute bout of physical exercise will release stress-alleviating neurochemicals. This could even look like a simple walk around your neighborhood, or some light yoga in your dorm. Endorphins help boost your mood and alleviate stress, serving as a natural balm for midterm anxiety. As an added bonus, regular exercise actually increases your energy throughout the day and clears your mind, meaning you will have more stamina and mental clarity to help you cram in your roomie’s notes from that lecture you missed!
Not everyone can exercise, but everyone can meditate. And yes, I do mean everyone. That’s because there are all kinds of ways to do it. For a lot of us, when we hear the word “meditation,” we think of someone sitting cross-legged and still, serene Mona Lisa smile on their face, mind totally clear of thoughts…which is actually a pretty difficult state to obtain, especially if you don’t have a lot of practice. But that’s not the only way to do it.
One great, and much more accessible form of meditation is mindfulness meditation. Practitioners of mindfulness meditation don’t seek to clear their thoughts completely; instead, they refrain from placing judgments on their experience. It’s pretty simple. If you’re doing a sitting routine, you sit with your eyes closed or relaxed and focused softly on one spot. Don’t try to think about anything, but don’t worry about not thinking either. Instead, when a thought or feeling comes, simply acknowledge it, note it—say “I’m feeling anxious”–and allow it to pass naturally without judging it as negative or positive. Mindfulness meditation is a great way to calm down for a few minutes and release yourself from the stress of daily life and the judgment that come with it. Some emerging research has also linked it with relapse prevention.
Some people find sitting meditation stressful. This can be especially true of those who have experienced trauma, particularly physical/sexual abuse. Sitting still with a body that has been violated can be extremely difficult. Which doesn’t mean you should avoid it forever. But if you’re trying to alleviate acute stress (like from midterms), it might not be the best time to face your trauma head-on. If sitting meditation is hard for you, try doing a moving meditation like yoga or even walking. In fact, almost any activity can be turned into a meditation! If you cook with intention, for example, taking time to note and savor the sensory experience, that can be a meditative practice too (but you might want to do it when nobody is waiting on you for that meal)!
Talk to a Someone You Trust
Finally, talk to someone you trust. It’s tried and true, because it works. Talking to a friend, family member, or trusted counselor about your feelings of stress or cravings can help you process and release those thoughts and feelings. It doesn’t have to be in person. It doesn’t even have to be done by voice; if you’re too anxious to meet up or call, open Facebook messenger or shoot your friend across the country a text. Don’t be afraid to burden others with your feelings; even if your anxiety is telling you that reaching out for help will be seen that way, I guarantee the people who love you will be glad to hear from you. An alternative–or addition–to this is journaling. Take a few moments each day to write down your anxieties. Identify what is stressing you most at that moment, and brain storm a few ways to get through it without using. If you don’t have someone to bounce these ideas off of, getting them out of your head and onto paper can be hugely helpful as well.
The Ammon Foundation believes that when individuals are holistically and strategically supported to build purposeful lives, the likelihood of them maintaining their recovery substantially increases. We provide this support via our two core programs – Ammon Recovery Scholars Program and Ammon Empowerment Workshop Program. To find out more about our programs, or to apply for an educational scholarship, please click here.