College is filled with exams and many assignments. Although grinding on homework gets things done, there is a large benefit to taking breaks to help your mental wellbeing.
“The grind” is a phrase used around campus to refer to the amount of work students have to complete. While ‘on the grind,’ students end up focusing so much on their work that they forget taking breaks is extremely beneficial and helps them process materials better.
There are multiple benefits to taking breaks. Javier S. Bautista, a doctor in Biomedical Sciences at London’s Global University (UCL), writes five beneficial reasons why breaks are very helpful for students.
“It improves memory, short repeated sessions of learning with breaks increases your concentration and facilitate the memorization of new contents.”
Taking breaks throughout studying can give your mind a much needed break from a constant overload of information, giving yourself a few minutes to process all of the new content.
“Serves as energy boosts. … Power naps of 10-20 minutes can be a great way to feel revitalized.”
Working when exhausted can lead to low energy levels and slower brain activity. Taking short naps can raise those levels of energy and give you more time to study.
“Reduces stress. Constant worry can lead to chronic stress, and students have been reported to be more likely to suffer higher levels of stress, which can have physical and mental impact.”
With a constant amount of stress resting on your shoulders, taking breaks may feel like taking away time from completing assignments. However, overloading the mind with work and information will only cause more stress. Stepping back and taking your mind off of your to-do list can provide some clarity.
“Rest and sleep have been shown to have a positive impact on your immune system.”
Having a lowered immune system can lead to exhaustion and decreases your body’s ability to protect itself. Laying on your bed and just putting your head down on the desk for a few minutes just to take a breath and distract your mind is one way this could work, but another is going to bed at a reasonable time to get a good amount of sleep.
“Sometimes, new creative approaches to problems may arise when doing different activities. So, the next time you’re stuck, try to take a break, rest and do something different. Hopefully, when you’re back to your work, you will have come up with some new ideas.”
Walking away can distract your mind while the subconscious can keep processing on the back burner. When staring at the computer, racking your brain for an idea, it may not be helpful to just sit there waiting for an idea to appear to you. Walking away and getting fresh air can help creativity strike and help you come up with an idea.
Though taking breaks are beneficial, the kind of break matters. Social media, for example, is not one of the most effective ways to give yourself a break.
A writer from Cornell University states, “Social media doesn’t work well as a ‘purposeful’ break. Instead, find activities that give your mind a break and allow you to breathe deeply, laugh, move your body, be creative, or ‘zone out’ on purpose. These kinds of activities will help you re-organize and re-focus.”
Scrolling through social media doesn’t work well as a break because your brain is still taking in loads of information and trying to process it all. When your brain is still trying to process the contents of what you are studying and working on, it doesn’t help to give it more content to digest.
So, how does one effectively take a break?
After going through the many benefits of taking a break, here are some ideas of what a break consists of:
- Taking a nap (15-20 minutes)
- Going for a walk to get some fresh air
- Meditate or spend time in silence, or, as mentioned above, “zone out on purpose”
- Close your eyes and take deep breaths
- Put on headphones and listen to the music
- Dance away your stress to your favorite playlist
- Hangout with friends who make you laugh
- Make a cup of tea or coffee and eat a nourishing snack
- Do some yoga — sitting in the same position can eventually be uncomfortable
- After your break, find a new spot to study for a change of scenery
College students have a lot on their plate, and taking breaks is not a waste of study time, but instead, gives you more clarity. We’ll make it through one deep breath at a time.