Now that February has arrived, midterm season is quickly approaching, and students are beginning to feel the pressure.
Amid juggling classes, clubs and many other activities while trying to get all of these things done in the next few weeks before spring break begins, it can be easy for students to forget to take time for themselves and recharge.
However, what people forget is that taking breaks and taking care of yourself is absolutely vital when it comes to producing your best work.
When it feels like a million things are due at once, it can be difficult to take the necessary time needed to take care of yourself. If you’re not constantly working on something, it feels more and more impossible that everything that needs to be done will get done, but the truth is that trying to force yourself through hours upon hours of work may be doing more harm than good.
Taking breaks can help keep your brain alert, leading to faster processing and more clarity of mind.
When your brain has to sit and focus on any particular task for too long, your mind tends to wander, and the final work produced may be done distractedly or in a rushed manner meant to just “get it over with.”
Additionally, trying to force yourself to sit and work for hours on end can lead to a steep decrease in motivation and creativity.
The human body is not meant to be idly sitting for long periods of time. According to WebMD, sitting too much has actually been linked to heart disease, diabetes, dementia, high blood pressure and cholesterol, back pain, increased anxiety and even a shortened life expectancy.
WebMD also highlighted that too much sitting can counter any work you have put in already as well. For instance, for someone who exercises, the effects of sitting down can undo the hard work you put in at the gym.
Not only does your ability to focus mentally decrease drastically when you sit and work for too long, but your health can take hits too.
So where does the delicate balance between productivly working and taking mental breaks come in? This can be difficult for students to pinpoint, and often what may have been meant to be a short break can turn into a long procrastination session.
One of the ways to prevent this is to take small breaks consciously with the intention that when you go back to working again, you will be re-focused and ready to be productive.
Here is a list of some helpful strategies that you can do to take effective mental breaks:
Take five minutes off for every hour you work. Set a timer for yourself so that you stay on track. This will make it so that you have something to work toward and will make you more motivated to stay focused because you know that there is a break coming.
It is also important when taking these breaks to take your mind completely off the task that you have to work on. A break isn’t going to feel like a break if it’s spent stressing about that essay that’s due in a few days.
Do something that you enjoy with the minutes that you are able to take off. Listen to a favorite song, start planning a trip, watch a funny YouTube video, say hi to a friend, eat a snack or go for a short walk outside. Spring is a great time to be outside and view nature’s beauty.
This last option is particularly effective because it will help get both your brain and body moving again.
Not only is it important to periodically take breaks while working, it is also very important to make sure that you take some longer breaks during your work days to go out and socialize or engage in some active self-care.
Try to take a couple hours off to get together with friends. Interacting with other people has been shown to provide a host of health benefits, including decreased feelings of depression.
Hanging out with people whose company you enjoy can also help boost your mood, which in turn can help make you feel more positive and motivated going into your work.
It is important to keep in mind not to get too caught up in other activities that could lead to procrastination. The best way to combat this is, on the days you know you have work to finish, to set a timer for yourself.
Whether this is for the aforementioned five-minute break or for when you are going to get back to work after hanging out with other people, setting a time for when you are going to work will help keep you on track and more likely to actually return to a place of productivity.
Whatever method you use, taking mental breaks is essential to producing your best work and maintaining your physical and emotional health, which is why it is important that they are taken, especially when the amount of work that needs to get done seems overwhelming.
Guilford College offers free counseling services at the Milner Counseling Center located near The Pines.