Spanish Banks
March 1, 2021
4 mins read

What to do (and not do) on your next study break

Feel like your internal battery’s running low? Is it desperately needing a recharge? Are you clutching your Pikachu plushie to get some (imaginary) voltaic power from it?

Don’t worry—you’ve arrived at the right place. This post offers 5 quick ideas that can help you really recharge. Remember that although taking a study break might feel counterintuitive in the moment, pausing to rest will ultimately enhance your studies—and help you keep your momentum of productivity in the long run!

What’s great is that a self-care break actually doesn’t have to be a huge investment of time. In fact, a common frequency is to rest for 15 to 20 minutes, following every 50 minutes of studying. I’ve also met those who live by the Pomodoro technique: resting for 5 minutes after studying for 25 minutes.

Here are some suggestions for what you can actually try during these short (but hopefully still sweet) study breaks!

How to take your next study break

1. Get moving

Staying physically active has lots of benefits. It’ll boost your mood—and help you focus more effectively when you sit back down to study!

Consider trying out the New York Times’s “7-minute exercises”—you’ll break into a sweat in no time! Or, maybe you enjoy dancing? That counts as exercise, too, of course. (I highly recommend dance tutorials for K-pop songs, e.g. those by Red Velvet or BLΛƆKPIИK.)

Alternately, head outside to get some fresh air. (An added perk of taking a short walk is that it has been shown to boost creativity!)

2. Prep and enjoy a snack

Treat yourself to a treat you make yourself. Choose a quick recipe that doesn’t take up too much brainpower, like these ones. Then, indulge in those comestibles and release your gastronomical inhibitions—but, whatever you throw together, aim for something that’s healthy and nutritious if possible!

Taking an apple

3. Write

The reason I didn’t say type is so that you won’t have to look at a screen (which you’ve been doing a lot, no?). Deliver your mind from stress by free writing about your thoughts: Writing has been shown to reduce stress and boost happiness.

One way to do so is to keep a journal or diary. These records can show your future self who you are today. Jot down some things you’re thankful for as well! 

4. Make art

UBC Library has a catalogue of free colouring books in downloadable PDF format. You can also find their recently released colouring book that’s also a calendar (whoa!). Take a second to check those out!

Another great way to destress is to take up knitting. I’ve always found it really relaxing to work with yarn. I’m not alone in saying this; according to this study, 92% of knitters felt that the craft boosted their mood!

Knitting break

5. Nap

Oh no, not those hour-long naps, which will likely disrupt your sleep schedule. I’m talking about a coffee nap, which has been shown to help people feel more alert! Just get a 20-minute-or-shorter shut-eye right after you drink a cup of coffee.


Here’s something else you can try while doing any of the above activities—especially if you’re looking to destress: Listening to music!

Playing some music in the background can help reduce anxiety—music is known to have therapeutic effects on the brain. But there are certain pieces of music that are more effective than others.

According to a neuroscience study, the song “Weightless” by Marconi Union was shown to reduce anxiety in participants by a stunning 65%—and music by Mozart and Coldplay have similar effects, too.

So, consider turning on some music to feel more relaxed, whatever you do during your study break! But be selective with the activity: Not all breaks yield the same effects.

What not to do on your study break

In “The Four Quartets,” T.S. Eliot writes a line that aptly describes modern life: It’s so easy to get “[d]istracted from distraction by distraction.” 

So, to reduce the likelihood of getting distracted, avoid doing the following activities on your well-earned breaks (unless you’re taking a whole afternoon off—or longer):

1. Starting on something you likely can’t easily put down

You know yourself best. If you’ve consistently found it challenging to stick to your boundaries when it comes to certain things, avoid presenting yourself with these enticing activities. 

For example, if you’ve found that you have a habit of opening TikTok to scroll for, like, 5 minutes...but end up staying on for hours, consider not opening it at all on during a short study break. Social media and video streaming platforms are designed to hog your attention—and Netflix’s primary competitor is, after all, sleep.

I’d also caution against playing games: You might play longer than you expect (and have the time for).

2. Reading things that may weigh down your mind

Avoid consuming those pageturners, like thrillers and horror stories, when you’re aiming to take a quick, refreshing break. Same goes for the news, which might bog you down in details on upsetting events. I mean, you’re aiming to relax, not to wind up in a tornado scoring F3 (or higher) on the Fujita scale, right?

But if you ever find yourself tumbling down an irresistible rabbit hole (hey, it happens!)…

Try these 3 strategies to pull yourself out of there:

  • Promise yourself a reward when you successfully detach
  • Count down from 5—out loud—and then unplug
  • Speak to yourself as if you’re your own older sibling—and then listen to your own (sage) advice! 

I personally find these helpful, so give them a try if and when you need to.

Sometimes, you might feel like you’re your own portable charger. But you’re not your only source of power. You can count on these study break strategies to repower up—and feel more positive and productive!

For even more ways to feel refreshed, check out this post covering ideas that (I wager) you’d not expect.