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How to Stress Less

How to Stress Less

A Survival Guide to Midterms 

By Alyssa Dorland 

Week five of fall quarter is here, and so are midterms. Be they essays, exams, or projects, this time in the school year brings on major hurdles and anxieties.  

It can be overwhelming to look at everything on the agenda and wonder, “How am I going to get through all of this?” Though midterm stress and anxiety can seem unbearable, there are ways to overcome them. 

Susan Stiffelman, licensed psychotherapist, teacher, and family therapist, has several tips for coping with school stress. In an interview with HuffPost she noted five simple steps to take for dealing with academic anxieties.  

First, take care of yourself by getting healthy sleep, eating well, and pausing the “relentless pace of everyday life” with fun or creative outlets.1 

Next, come up with guidelines for combating negative self-talk. This could include making agendas and writing down reasons that you can overcome academic obstacles.2  

Third, Stiffelman recommends breaking down tasks into “manageable, bite-sized portions” so they appear less overwhelming.3 For an essay, this could be outlining the steps of a prompt and going through them one at a time.  

Fourth, set goals that are achievable. Instead of aiming to be top of the class, pick a goal that pushes you but is within your reach and will make you feel accomplished.4 

Finally, Stiffelman emphasizes creating a balanced life during test week. She urges to take “short breaks for fun activities so that you’ll be able to go back to your writing or studying refreshed.”Even fifteen minutes away from studying can bring enormous relief. 

These steps are easy to follow, but maybe you feel like working alone just isn’t enough. Thankfully, you don’t have to.  

At Walla Walla University, peer tutoring is free and there are 11 content areas to choose from! If you are struggling with a particular topic, or need someone to review what you already have, sign up for a tutoring session with the Student Development Center. 

Simply go to the peer tutoring page on the WWU website, select the area you need help in, choose a time slot, and pick your tutor!  

If tutoring isn’t quite what you are looking for, consider looking at your class list on D2L and asking classmates if they want to set up a Teams study session. Studying together can help everyone gain new insights! 

The Pomodoro Method is great for breaking up study tasks.
Photo by Alyssa Dorland 

If taking breaks is where you struggle, try using Francesco Cirillo’s Pomodoro Technique. The process includes six steps:  

1. Choose your learning task 

2. Set a timer for 25 minutes  

3. Stick to that task until the timer rings 

4. Put a check mark where you stop working  

5. Take a short five to 10-minute break  

6. Repeat the process four times, and then take one 20-minute break before starting over. 6 

According to Brian Collins, former contributor for Forbes magazine, The Pomodoro Technique is best served for those who get distracted easily, and works well for writing, coding, design, and study tasks. Collins says that the technique is also great if you have “a lot of repetitive work to get through, such as wading through a busy inbox.”7 

See Also

As you enter midterms, pick and choose solutions that work for you! Take breaks, stick to schedules, and always remember to be kind to yourself.  

Page Break 


1.  Academic pressure: 5 tips from an expert on coping with school stress. (2014, August 20). HuffPost. Retrieved from 


3. Ibid. 

4. Ibid. 

5. Ibid. 

6. Cirillo Consulting GmbH. Do more and have fun with time management. Francesco Cirrilo. 

7. Collin. B. (2020, March 3). The Pomodoro Technique explained. Forbes.  

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