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The Importance of Taking a Break

During the throes of midterms, essays, and extracurriculars we often forget to give ourselves time away from our everyday stresses. Taking a break can seem like a waste of our time or unimportant, but what you might not know is that taking regular and consistent breaks is vital to academic and personal success. Keep reading to learn about some of the benefits of taking regular breaks!

1. Quicker Cognitive and Physical Recovery

Everyone starts to feel run down at the end of the semester, but it is important to keep your stamina up for midterms and finals. During those late nights of cramming, it can be easy to continue working through the night, but studies show this can make recovery much harder afterward. A study from Jennifer Coffeng in the Human Kinetics Journal found that taking breaks from work throughout the day, especially when they involve physical activity, is associated with faster recovery rates. As the semester picks up, it's important to make sure we have enough energy to complete every new task that comes our way.

2. Improved Mood

Some of the hardest things to fight as finals approach is burnout and lower motivation. It can be hard to remember that maintaining your mental health is just as much of a priority as your academic responsibilities. Using study breaks or timeblocks in your schedule to take a quick walk or time to stretch can improve your mood and keep you motivated to tackle the rest of your assignments. To avoid the mid-semester drought, it is vital that you are taking time to yourself to do the things that make you happy and take your mind off stress.

3. Stronger Information Retention

Taking time after learning or practicing a new skill is also vital for allowing your brain to retain that new information. Contrary to popular belief, when we take a study or learning break, our brain doesn’t stop working - it continues to make connections and process information we’ve received. This concept was explored in a recent study, which found that including “rest intervals” in the learning process can help with better reinforcement and consolidation of skills. So, when you give yourself time between study or practice sessions, your brain has time to let new concepts set in to improve your memory.

4. Increased Creativity and Problem Solving

Mental blocks are a common symptom of mid-semester stress, and they can make even simple projects feel impossible. When we spend too much time working on the same question or problem, our creativity naturally starts to drop. This was proved by a study from Sophie Ellwood and her associates, who found that taking breaks from a particular task to work on something unrelated led to a more creative mindset. When we come back to a problem after giving ourselves a break, we tend to be more open-minded to new solutions.

5. Build Relationships

Through the stress of mounting tasks, we not only forgo mental health, but we can miss out on other positive experiences that make stress more manageable. For example, intensive study schedules can cause us to miss spending time with friends or talking to family. Sometimes these relationships can give us the support we need to push through the hardest parts of the semester. It’s important to remember that, no matter how stressful things get, you’re never in it alone!

Science shows that continuous work is not the most optimal way to complete tasks or be academically successful. Instead, taking regular breaks gives the clarity and energy needed to thrive at the end of the semester; even just five minutes every hour or so will make a huge difference. The middle of the semester can be a stressful time, but doing this will allow you to finish the semester with the confidence and positivity you need!

By Kristen Lopiano

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