As finals draw closer, we all know the drill: buckle down, retreat into your study place of choice, and mug until the cows come home. When in the ‘zone’, we can get so absorbed that we don’t look up, or break away from the screen for hours. Some of us might even forget to eat, inadvertently skipping meals until it’s 6pm and suddenly your stomach is begging for something other than the black coffee downed in the morning.
But is studying for extended periods of time really good for you? You might think you are being productive, with the feelings of satisfaction that a concentrated study session naturally creates. But not taking breaks could be detrimental to our mental and physical health, which has long-term consequences.
It’s normal to be stressed when a big event is nearing. End-of-semester exams are a legitimate reason to send Uni students into a frenzy, particularly just a couple of days before. One way that taking a break helps, is that they interrupt the cycle of stress that you could find yourself steeped in, which potentially leads to being overwhelmed by the number of things you have to cover. By simply stepping away from work for a while, you put a pause to stress, giving yourself space to restore physically and mentally.
If any of the following sound like you, it’s time to schedule a couple of minutes away from the books:
- You feel tired and have decreased energy levels.
- You lack motivation or feel drained.
- You get frustrated more easily and/or frequently. Simple issues, like hitting an problem question in a worksheet, trigger a much larger response like bursting into tears)
- You sometimes feel light-headed.
- Appearance of mild health issues (more easily susceptible to the common cold or coughs, feeling feverish etc.)
- You have difficulty sleeping, even though fatigue permeates your body.
These may sound like temporary problems that will go away once the event or situation is over, but when stress (and the symptoms) build up over time, real health problems can set in which will take much longer to recover from. Just by experiencing more headaches and digestive issues, you may face increased risk of heart disease and stroke. To prevent this, it’s time to have your long-term wellbeing as a priority, rather than only focusing on your short-term goals – like getting good grades. Remember that good grades and good health do not have to exist in silo, and it’s up to you to strike a balance.
Source: Morgan Harper Nichols
There are several great ways to take a break that can still be considered productive and useful (though even a quick catnap works wonders too). Called strategic renewal, activities like daytime workouts, a meaningful catchup with a friend, and meditation help to mitigate the effects of chronic stress.
Moreover, research suggests that our brain uses downtime to cultivate significant links that shape identity and social behavior. So by going for that 10 minute walk in nature, you’re taking steps towards better recalling personal memories and experiences, imagining the future, as well as developing a personal code of ethics.
Take it from an author, Russell Eric Dobda: “Taking a break can lead to breakthroughs.” So next time you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders, slow down… and take a nice long breath. You’re not just taking a break, nor are you wasting time. You’re on your way to your next breakthrough!