Taking regular breaks is a simple way to keep yourself refreshed and attentive. It’s common for students, particularly younger ones, to get so engrossed in studying that they forget about eating, drinking water, or even going to the bathroom.
Breaks are important. Take advantage of any opportunity you have during your break to stretch out and give your body a break. Even if it’s just for five minutes.
When you take a short walk around campus or go across campus to grab some food—those minutes spent away from your books can make all of the difference when it comes time for study sessions again.
In between your study sessions, you can do lots of fun things that will keep your brain active and help prevent burnout. If you have time, here are 20 things to do while taking breaks while studying!
1) Do a crossword puzzle or Sudoku puzzle
Often, when you are studying for an exam, it’s very easy to get stuck in the same routine repeatedly. However, taking breaks is essential to keep your mind fresh.
If you find it hard to concentrate for long periods of time, then try doing a crossword puzzle or Sudoku puzzle.
Finding the answers to Sudoku puzzles can be a great way to keep your mind sharp and think outside the box. Crossword puzzles can be good because they make you think about words that may not typically be associated with one another.
2) Listen to Podcasts
Learning new skills or just getting inspired? Podcasts are a fantastic way to feed your brain. This includes everything from learning how to code, photography tips and tricks, marketing advice, language lessons, and more.
Listening to a podcast can help your mind relax before going back to studying. Put on some headphones, fire up your favorite podcaster app, and let it stimulate your mind on break!
If you’re looking for a great way to de-stress during breaks, meditation is one of my favorite tips. Even if you aren’t typically someone who meditates on a regular basis, giving it a try during your study break can help calm your mind and prepare you for more focused work later on.
You can even meditate right there in your dorm room! Just sit quietly, take some deep breaths, and clear your mind of any distractions.
To help kick-start my own meditation practice (and keep me motivated), I like to lie down across the floor and name things I am grateful for. This helps to kick start my mediation without fighting my thoughts.
4) Watch motivational videos
When you’re trying to study for hours at a time, it can be hard not to get distracted. To fight boredom and help keep your mind fresh, find some motivation on YouTube—or a TED talk video.
Not only will they give you new ways of looking at old problems, but they might just inspire you to take action.
Remember: breaks are an essential part of your study routine. Time away from work can be just as valuable as time spent in front of your textbook or computer screen.
5) Get up from your chair
One of the easiest ways to take breaks is to get up from your chair. Research shows that people learn faster when they walk around than sitting still.
The best part is, you don’t even have to go outside! Just take a short break every now and then and change positions; stand up for a few minutes and then go back and study at your desk (or vice versa).
You’ll be surprised by how much better you concentrate during those times.
6) Go outside
A study published in 2008 in Psychology & Health found that, on average, nature-lovers reported lower levels of psychological distress than their indoor counterparts.
The researchers concluded that spending time outdoors is one of several behaviors associated with less negative mood.
Being around trees and other greenery for people with anxiety disorders is especially helpful. So, next time you need a break from schoolwork, go sit outside for a little bit.
You don’t have to spend hours gardening or hiking; just five minutes in a park can give you some much-needed zen.
7) Take photos of your everyday life
It may sound like a silly suggestion, but snapping pictures of everyday events is one of my favorite ways to kill time. The photos don’t have to be fancy or even well-framed—they just need to be exciting and filled with stuff that represents your life.
Scan through them on your phone (you can also print them) whenever you want a little break. Just make sure you’re not spending too much time doing it!
Taking breaks while studying is all about balance, after all.
8) Read inspirational quotes
Inspirational quotes are essential for keeping spirits high, especially when deadlines are looming. Having a collection of carefully-curated inspirational quotes on hand at all times is great for getting you through those tough writing sessions.
Here are some of my favorites:
“Energy and persistence conquer all things.” Benjamin Franklin.
“A ship in harbor is safe — but that’s not what ships are built for.” John A. Shedd
“If you can fly, then run if you can’t run, then walk if you can’t walk, then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
9) Do something nice for others
It’s easy to get down on yourself when you’re working hard toward a goal, but it helps to remember that there are other people who will benefit from your efforts.
In fact, one of the most excellent things you can do for yourself is to make someone else feel good. And since breaks help rejuvenate you mentally and physically, it makes sense that doing something nice for others would help lift your spirits as well. It’s a win-win situation!
Here are a few ideas: Offer some encouraging words on a student forum; send a friend a funny text or meme; volunteer at an animal shelter or food bank; donate blood; bake cookies for teachers or your elderly neighbors.
10. Count backward from 100 by 3s
Counting backward is a proven method of distracting your mind from focusing on something stressful – which in this case, is studying.
The act of counting backward forces your mind to focus on something other than the information you are trying to learn. This simple trick will keep your mind off the fact that you are studying and allow your subconscious mind to take in all of the information.
Start at 100 and count backward in increments of three (100, 97, 94, 91, etc.).
11. Say the alphabet backward
A great way to take your mind off of studying is to say the alphabet backward. This takes up a lot of your brain’s power and makes it harder to think about what you’re doing.
One way to do this is by focusing on a single word and saying it backward, then moving on to the next one. You can also pick a sentence at random and read it backwards.
Do it a few times and see how quickly you can do it.
The game will improve your concentration, focus, and short-term memory.
12. Solve a math problem in your head
If you’re studying, but your mind keeps drifting to other things, try this: Solve a math problem in your head. It sounds weird, but it’ll help.
The “math problem” doesn’t have to be anything complicated. It can be simple multiplication or division. Or it could be addition or subtraction if you’re younger and not used to doing multiplication and division in your head.
On the surface, solving math problems might not seem like the ideal way to distract yourself from other things, but it works because solving a math problem requires you to focus on what you’re doing — otherwise, you risk getting the answer wrong.
When you do that, it takes your mind off whatever else was distracting it. Afterward, you’ll find that you’re capable of focusing again when needed.
13. Practice foreign language vocabulary words
When you’re studying for a test, the last thing you want is to be constantly reminded of the subject matter. That’s why students often find themselves turning to music or podcasts to distract their minds from what they’re learning.
After all, trying to learn something and thinking about it at the same time is one of the most inefficient study tactics there is.
It’s much better to learn a few foreign language vocabulary words that remind you of the topic you’re studying. That way, when you hear them later on in your day, they’ll cause your mind to be drawn away from your studies.
So if you’re taking a Spanish class and are currently learning about European geography, use words related to France or Spain as your study vocabulary words.
14. Read a page of a novel or a magazine
When you feel as if you are unable to focus or concentrate, it is recommended that you stop studying for a while and allow your brain to rest. This way, your mind will be able to absorb the information better during the next session.
To do this, try reading a page of a novel or magazine. By doing this, you will be able to keep your mind busy and off of the study materials.
Reading a page from a novel or magazine will help you relax and improve your knowledge about various things in the world. You could learn about new things such as famous people or places in other countries.
15. Think of 10 words that rhyme with the last word you said aloud to yourself
This is an easy technique to distract your mind from studying, and it works on anything. Say “dog” and think of 10 words that rhyme with it.
You could say “book” and think of 10 words that rhyme with book (and you’d have a lot of free time). If you say “apple,” think of 10 words that rhyme with it.
16. Think of as many animals as possible in two minutes (start with “cow,” for example).
Trying to recall as many animals as possible will exercise your “working memory,” which helps you process and retain information.
If your working memory is strong, you’ll be able to recall more animals in a set period, which will put less strain on your long-term memory, which might otherwise become overloaded.
Try this exercise next time you’re trying to take a break from studying.
17. Chew gum
Chewing gum may help relieve stress, improve blood circulation, and clear your mind from distractions that might cause you to make mistakes on a test.
You can even get peppermint or cinnamon-flavored gum to help with alertness and memory recall.
If you’re not an avid gum chewer, don’t worry — according to scientists, the act of chewing itself can improve concentration.
The act of chewing causes more saliva to be produced, which in turn releases glucose into your bloodstream.
That glucose provides a little burst of energy that can help keep you focused on what you’re doing.
18. Gargle saltwater
A simple way to give your brain some downtime is to gargle salt water. Salty water doesn’t taste good, but the discomfort associated with it can give you an incentive to take a break when you otherwise wouldn’t.
To do this, fill a glass with warm water and add about 3/4 teaspoon of salt per cup.
Then gargle the saltwater for 30 seconds and spit it out. This will help clear your sinuses while allowing you to take that much-needed mental break!
19. Eat a healthy snack
While you’re studying, you don’t want to take a break. You want to just keep going until you’re done.
Temptation, however, can get the better of anyone, and that goes double for hungry students.
A study found that people ate more snacks when hungry because their brains thought their stomachs needed food. When you study for an extended period, it’s essential to give your brain a break so it doesn’t feel like you’re neglecting it.
Here are some excellent choices for healthy snacks: Nuts/seeds, Apples/pears/bananas, Fruit smoothies, Greek yogurt, Tuna Salad.
20. Write in your journal or diary
One thing that always helps me is to write in my journal when I’m taking a break from studying. This works because it gets my mind off the fact that I’m studying and makes me feel better about not knowing the material.
When I take a break, I sit down with a pen and paper for about 20 minutes, just writing about my day, my feelings about school, or whatever else I want to write about. Then, when I go back to studying, I feel much more relaxed and ready to learn.
Extra Tip: Clean up your mess
Author of the book “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” Marie Kondo recommends you tidy up your space before starting a project or a study session.
It’s not just about having a clean space. It’s about keeping only what you need, so your mind can be clear to do what needs to be done.
Kondo recommends picking up each item and asking yourself if it sparks joy in your life. If it doesn’t, it should go.
It’s easy to get burned out when it comes to your schoolwork. Instead of letting that happen, take a minute and think about what you can add to your schedule for fun!
By changing up how you approach your schoolwork, you’ll be more likely to stay engaged with your work—which in turn will make studying easier.
And let’s face it: when you spend a little time relaxing, you’ll be better prepared for when it’s time to buckle down and study again. Good luck!