It’s that time of the year again: dark circles under the eyes, pale lips, risks of caffeine overdose, packed libraries, take-out boxes on every desk and — for some — even sleeping in Perkins. It’s midterm season.

We all know that around this time, self-care becomes particularly important to ensure that we don’t break down before being handed the midterms and that our body can properly deliver onto the paper what we’ve crammed for the past few days. However, I admit that self-care is sometimes hard to put into practice. Really, when you’ve got four writing assignments (one of them is in French and another is a memo), two projects and a midterm to confront in a span of two weeks, your head might be so filled with numbers, words (some in French), graphs and questions like “Why should I care what this intersection point means?” that you will even forget about eating and sleeping, let alone the brochures you’ve read about self-care.

So I decided to investigate what students do during midterm season to de-stress, as well as the resources Duke offers to help students maintain wellbeing, especially the Student Wellness Center. Let me tell you what happened inside the Wellness Center Tuesday night.

7:30 pm

I trudged into the Wellness Center with heavy steps and heavy deadlines on my shoulders, pushing open the heavy glass doors. But the mesmerizing sound of a running stream on the first floor immediately made me relaxed and believe that maybe I could finish three papers and my Chronicle article in one night. The building’s wooden furniture and giant, bright windows made the environment all the more calming.

I went up to the second floor, which is dotted by several group-study pods and features a piano that welcomes anyone to play at any time. Luckily, I found a vacant pod. I sat down, took out my laptop and started typing.

7:45 pm

Someone was sitting at the other pod, and I was curious to know what he was up to at this time in the Wellness Center.

His name is Alex Pierson, a sophomore who likes coming to the Wellness Center to study due to its aesthetically pleasing environment and the piano.

“I like the fact that it’s a nice walk away for me — Perkins is full of students who are all stressed out about midterms and whatever,” Pierson said. “Here, no one is going to bother me. So this is where I come to do serious studying I would say, if I have a solid chunk of time.”

To de-stress during this busy time, he enjoys taking five-minute breaks to play the piano, listening to other people playing the piano, meditating, and trying to go to gym (me too!).

9:00 pm

I finished one out of the two papers that were due the next day! I decided that I deserved a break and opened up YouTube.

Someone other than Pierson was playing the piano. I stopped him on his way back to his pod to study.

Erikson Nichols is also a sophomore who likes playing the piano to decompress. He said listening to music while studying helps him calm down and focus. Furthermore, he makes use of the resources in the Oasis on the first floor quite frequently and is familiar with the magic of the massage chair.

Though I don’t play the piano, I agree with Pierson and Nichols that listening to people playing the piano is relaxing. Sometimes I could learn about the player’s frustration and stress from his music, thinking, “Yeah bro, I totally feel you!” Other times, I could tell that the player did not completely memorize the notes and was practicing to improve, but that’s okay: “Go bro you can do this!”

Thus, I would be motivated myself, too.

9:30 pm

Okay, I thought, there is no way I can finish everything by tonight. I’ll do the rest tomorrow. There is still some time before the deadlines.

I wanted to head back to East and use my equivalency to get a cup of hot chocolate. 

But before that, I decided to check out the third floor.

When I approached her, first-year Leona Suleman was just finishing up with her tutor.

She said she likes the nice view of the Chapel from the third-floor window and comes to the Wellness Center often on study dates with her boyfriend. Like Nichols, she also frequents the Oasis downstairs but has never been to any of the de-stressing workshops at the Wellness Center.

“I think they are just always at inconvenient times, like they are usually at dinner time, or just times when I’m in class,” Suleman said. “Or they’re too far away because I live on East.” 

I walked out of the Wellness Center with lighter steps, though still with heavy deadlines on my shoulders. But I’m not going to stay up until 3 a.m. tonight, I decided. I’m going to bed early and wake up early to be more productive for tomorrow.