The Best Study Breaks: How to Avoid Study Overload

Anyone who has spent long nights cramming for a test or writing a last-minute paper knows that countless hours of study are not only miserable, but can also become unproductive—especially if you are studying for hours straight. Research suggests that taking short breaks can actually improve your ability to remember information and stay focused; however, not all study breaks are smart study breaks. Rather than checking Reddit or Netflix and ending up in an Internet black hole, read on to learn about the best study breaks and how to avoid study overload.

1. Take a walk to boost brain power

Give your brain a break and put your body to work! Taking a walk around campus allows you to get some fresh air and can reenergize your brain to power through studying later. Physical activity boosts blood flow to the brain, and thus mental activity, so even a short jaunt around the block can help your studying. The benefits of walking go even further: walks can improve creative thinking, but also impart long-term benefits, such as improved memory, cognitive performance, and enhanced connectivity among brain circuits. Staying in the same place and position for a long time, such as hunched over a table at the library, can leave you tired and unfocused. Get up and stretch your legs so that you can focus on the work ahead.

2. Take a break from studying for a short snack

Healthy snacks are the key here. It’s easy to munch on junk food while studying, but those foods aren’t doing anything positive for your body. Skip the processed foods that can leave you feeling groggy and take a 30-minute break to make a balanced meal. If you feel the need to snack, choose a food that can boost your brainpower. Not only can whole grains, fruits, and veggies help you stay energized, but they also contain a healthy mix of antioxidants, fiber, and glucose, which can improve learning, cognitive ability, and boost your energy levels.

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3. Take a (timed) cat nap to recharge your brain

Sleep is a great way to reset your brain, especially if you are studying during the early hours and late into the night. A 20-minute nap can improve your cognitive function, and therefore help you stay alert and focused. Ironically, longer naps can leave you tired, so be sure to set an alarm clock (or three) and abide by it—no snooze button! Nap in a dark, quiet room where your 20 minutes will be used most efficiently.

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4. Find your Zen to avoid study overload

Studies indicate that when the mind is at rest, parts of the brain that help with memory storage are highly engaged. There are several potential ways you can give your racing mind a rest. Many campus gyms offer yoga classes, which are a great way to clear your mind for a short period of time. If there isn’t a yoga studio on campus, try looking up relaxation or meditation techniques on Youtube in your dorm or apartment. You can also give your brain a break for 20 minutes by turning off the lights, listening to some relaxing music, and clearing your mind.

5. Organize your study space to stay focused

A clean workspace is a happy workspace. Studying in a cluttered or dirty location can distract you from the task at hand. Cleaning up a small area can give you a needed break and allow you a small success, which can translate into a more positive mindset. If you feel like you’ve been productive, you’re more likely to remain productive. When the words in your notes start to blur together, take a minute to organize your area and give yourself a much-needed study break.

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6. Let your inner artist out to relieve stress

Remember all those hours you spent coloring when you were a kid? Turns out you were doing your brain a favor. If studying has you stressed, trade in your pens and highlighters for crayons and markers and take a coloring break. Coloring and similar artistic activities can help alleviate stress, and have even been linked to a boost in brain activity. It may sound bizarre, but more and more adults are turning to coloring as a way to unwind and relax (there are even several coloring books available for adults, featuring intricate designs and patterns).

Study breaks can help you avoid study overload and re-focus your energy to power through. Not only that, certain study breaks can also help you better retain the information. Keep your breaks short and intentional to boost your productivity, and you will be well-prepared in no time.