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A Midterm-Season Survival Guide: What to Do When You’re Feeling Burnt-Out and Overwhelmed, by Anna Langmuir

University life isn’t exactly plain sailing. If you’ve ever made it through the midterm season as a full-time student, then you’ll know what it feels like to get inundated with multiple exams, essays, assignments, and 100s of pages of reading, all due in a two-week timespan. To say the very least, it can be incredibly stressful and overwhelming. So with the midterm season on the horizon once again, it’s more important than ever to take the necessary steps to avoid burnout. The good news is, there are multiple ways to help combat the stress of midterms and prevent yourself from feeling overwhelmed. Whether it’s learning how to manage your time more effectively, avoiding over-commitment, or simply getting outside and moving your body, here are a few small steps to calm your mind and make this midterm season feel a little more feasible.

Get organized and manage your time effectively.

We’ve all been guilty of putting off our essays and assignments for just that bit too long. Suddenly, it’s the night before the due date, and you have a 2000 word research paper to try and write within the evening. Poor time management is one of the biggest culprits (for myself included) when feeling stressed, overwhelmed, and burnt out. That's why this first tip is arguably the most important on this list. Laying out all of your commitments and due dates in an organized fashion is a great way to break things up, allowing you to face your obligations one by one and avoid large backlogs of work.

Write Daily To-Do Lists

If you don’t have concrete plans, classes, or commitments during any particular day, it’s easy to get side-tracked and spend the day napping rather than studying. Like the above point, writing daily to-do lists is a great way to break up your day, give yourself a clear schedule, and reserve some well-needed time.


This is a big one. We’ve all pulled an all-nighter in a last-minute bid to study for an exam or finish a research paper that’s due the following day. While it’s sometimes tempting to leave an assignment to the day before and finish it in one sitting, there is no denying the importance of adequate sleep when it comes to being your best, most-clearheaded self.


Studying for hours upon end can leave us feeling pent-up, stressed, and frustrated. While it may seem obvious, exercise indeed is proven to reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Even just going for a thirty-minute daily walk is a great way to get the endorphins flowing, improve your mood, reduce your stress levels and give you some well-needed headspace away from studying. So if you’re feeling smothered with schoolwork, sometimes the best remedy is to get outside and move your body.

Learn to say ‘no’ when it’s necessary

Over-commitment is a recipe for feeling burnt out and overwhelmed. Sometimes our fear of missing out, letting people down, or our aversion to simply saying ‘no’ can cause us to commit to things we don’t have time for. For example, if you’re currently feeling overwhelmed with school work, now might be a good time to say no to that party or to turn down that extra shift at work.

Plan something new and exciting!!! 

If you’re feeling stressed and stuck in a rut, a great way to boost your morale and give yourself something to look forward to is to plan to do something new and exciting in the near or distant future. This could be purchasing tickets for an upcoming concert, taking a pottery class, or planning a day trip with friends.

Don’t forget to slow down and take rest days.

Finally, don’t be too hard on yourself during stressful times! While taking a day away from university work can seem counter-intuitive to some, on days when you’re feeling burnt-out and overwhelmed, it’s crucial to take a day or a few hours away from staring at your assignments and essays. If you think that being away from your work will only make you feel more stressed, focus your energy on to other areas besides schoolwork. For example, chores, hobbies, or alternative obligations do not involve university work (such as going to the gym, cleaning the kitchen, or watering your plants). That way, you know that you’re productive while taking some much-needed time away from work and study.