Do you ever feel like your head’s about to explode?
With everything we commit ourselves to, it certainly isn’t hard to get there. After summer ends, school slaps us in the face.
Classes take time, work piles up, stress levels explode.
Burnout, a year round problem, is especially common at the start of the school year. That’s because we don’t ease into the work, we just jump right in.
But all this stress can easily be avoided with something we neglect too often: effective study skills.
The makings of effective study breaks
The best way to study? Take effective study breaks. But before I explain what they are, let me tell you what they are not.
We assume we’re good at taking breaks, but in reality, we aren’t.
Rather than finding something that rejuvenates us, we often turn to laziness. TV, YouTube, and social media. And while they may seem to be helping, they are not.
A good break stimulates your brain, but these platforms soften it. They make focusing difficult and eliminate motivation.
Don’t get me wrong, these forms of entertainment certainly have their place; they provide joy and entertainment. But when it comes to studying, they’re just distractions. I’ll mention them again later on.
Relaxation isn’t what you think
When you’re working on a big assignment, you get drained easily. Hoping to get back to work, you might try relaxing for a bit and then getting back to it. But when you finally do start again, you probably have even less energy than you did in the first place. Here’s why:
Relaxation doesn’t give you energy in the short term. It takes it away.
Break short, break active
When you’re feeling drained from a long study session, the last thing you want to do is get up and move around. But, in reality, one of the most effective study breaks.
One very popular method, called Pomodoro, consists of 25 minutes on and 5 minutes off. Find a ratio that works for you. If you’re interested in pomodoro, here’s a free online timer to keep you on track.
Here are some ideas for effective study breaks:
- Get up and stretch: touch your toes
- Crank up your favorite song and dance
- Take your dog for a short walk or play in the backyard
- Rock out on your instrument of choice
- Go for a run
- Play a fast paced game of pool or ping-pong
It’s also a good idea to switch subjects often, every hour or so. You’ll use different parts of your brain and hold your focus even longer.
It’ll take some experimenting, but there’s a break out there for everyone. Take the time to figure out what works for you.
And even though breaks do take some time away from studying, they help you focus. You’ll make up the break time and then some.
But short breaks aren’t enough
Remember that whole energizing vs. relaxing thing I mentioned earlier? Here’s where the second part comes in.
Relaxation is key because it gives you the long-term energy you need to get through each day.
Because I’m a workaholic, I think of these times of relaxation as long breaks. And they have a few caveats.
- While they’re meant to calm you down, they need to give you energy too. And, as I mentioned earlier, sitting around at home usually doesn’t help energize you. Getting out and about is most effective.
- A longer break ≠ a better break. Generally speaking, the longer the break, the more rejuvenated you will feel. But past a point, breaks no longer provide the rejuvenation you need to get working again. This is why you need to take them daily.
Effective study breaks (LONG):
- Call a friend
- Play a video game
- Go to a party
- Play sports with friends
- Practice an instrument
- Spend time with friends and family
- Watch TV or *check social media (follow us)*
*Not for too long though
Don’t take on too much.
When people ask you to sign up for clubs, participate in events, or hang out for a while, you need to know your priorities. You won’t always have time for extra activities.
At the beginning of the school year, many students take on too much too fast. By signing up for only a few activities, you can easily balance your workload. They may take up more time than you think and you can always add more later.
Everyone goes through stressful times in their lives, especially when they make big changes (ie a new school year). Remember that you can always get support from friends, family, and school counselors.
Managing your time well and taking effective study breaks are the keys to avoiding stress. If you follow the advice above, you’ll be ready for work whenever it hits you.
And, because you’re not wasting study time, you’ll find yourself to be more energized when you’re not working too.
What do you think?
Do you have questions about anything I’ve mentioned above? Please let me know in the comments below. And, if you have any other strategies or comments, we’d love to hear those as well!