By Melissa Burns
When it comes to studying for finals, it’s not uncommon to spend hours at a time hunched over textbooks and flipping through lecture notes. It can take hours to perfect a concept and days to fully prepare for everything that could be thrown your way on an exam. At some point, though, you need to take a break and let your brain relax.
Healthy and Productive Ways to Unwind
When most college students take a break from studying, they choose to go out and have a few (too many) drinks, binge-eat, play video games, or watch mindless movies. While these may serve as distractions from studying, they do little to recharge the brain. In fact, they ultimately end up causing more damage than good.
If you want to take a productive break, it needs to serve the purpose of recharging your brain without taking you totally out of sync. Keeping that in mind, here are some healthy ideas:
- Get Crafty
Studying is very rigorous and clinical. You learn the information you’ve been assigned and don’t have many other options. As such, this demanding setup can wear your brain out, so to speak.
When taking a break, it’s important that you bring some balance into the equation. It can be particularly advantageous to do something creative and artsy. One idea is to create a photo book of the school year in review. This is a nice way to reminisce and use some of your creative “juices.”
- Enjoy Afternoon Tea
If you’re feeling stressed from all the studying you’re doing, it can help to take a little afternoon tea break. Specifically, you should sip on some green tea and eat a bit of dark chocolate. The green tea contains lots of L-Theanine, an ingredient that’s supposed to relax your mind. Dark chocolate is known to regulate the stress hormone cortisol and stabilize your metabolism.
- Go For a Run Around the Block
You’ve probably heard people talk about going for a run to clear their mind. Well, this is more than just a hyperbole. There’s actually a lot of truth in this idea. As filmmaker Casey Neistat says, “Every major decision I’ve made in the last eight years has been prefaced by a run.” If you feel yourself losing focus or getting stressed, a quick 15- or 20-minute jog may be just what the doctor ordered.
- Spend Time in Nature
Have you ever gone on a walk or hike in the woods and felt the powerful feeling of relaxation and peace come over you?
“From your first steps into the forest, your entire body feels changed. You feel the gentle breeze on your skin and the trail under your feet,” environmental writer Jill Richardson notes. “You breathe in and notice the clean, crisp air with the familiar smell of the forest that is sometimes punctuated with the odors of specific plants you pass, like a fragrant flower or a pungent sage. After a long hike, you feel recharged, and not just because of the exercise.”
Study after study has shown that spending time in nature is good for your mental health, so why not go on a solo hike in between study sessions? It could do you a lot of good.
Recognize the Importance of Rest
You may think that 10-hour studying days are what you need during exam time, but your brain can’t handle such long and taxing schedules. It’s much better to spend six or seven quality hours studying than 10 semi-engaged hours. Recognize the importance of rest and step away for a healthy, productive break when you feel your attention start to wane.
Melissa Burns graduated from the faculty of Journalism of Iowa State University in 2008. Nowadays she is an entrepreneur and independent journalist. Her sphere of interests includes startups, information technologies and how these ones may be implemented.