Try these study breaks to reduce end-of-semester overload

Thursday, May 2, 2024 Try these study breaks to reduce end-of-semester overload

Adding in fun study breaks will let you relax, keep you focused and help you stay alert.

Updated May 2, 2024. A previous version of this article was originally published April 25, 2022.

While cramming for tests and projects may seem like a rite of passage to generations of college students, it's not the most productive way to study.

Even with the best-laid plans or intentions, the last-minute cram is not uncommon, but that doesn’t mean you should keep your nose in the books all day and night. In fact, that can diminish the quality of your study session and your mental and physical well-being.

Adding in fun study breaks will let you relax, keep you focused and help you stay alert. Here are some ways to give yourself a much-deserved mental break.

Why should I take a break?

Taking a break from studying can increase your motivation and prevent burnout. It’s helpful to give yourself a reward and feeling of gratification, so you can then easily return to your study environment. Study breaks increase your sense of control over your schedule and allow you to still enjoy your time.

After a break, it will be easier to continue working and you’ll be better at remaining focused for your exams– this accountability will benefit you in the long run. If you need an extra push to consider your procrastination, check out this TED Talk for a bit of encouragement.

How often should I take a break?

According to this article, every 50 to 90 minutes you should break from the concentrated focus of studying or work. Take five minutes of break time for every 25 minutes you were studying.

What should I do during the break?

Give yourself some variety during each break and include these factors:

  1. Get physical. Move your body to relieve your joints and increase blood circulation.
  2. Be social. Meet with a friend or call a family member.
  3. Free your mind. Stop concentrating about the subject you are studying.
  4. Ditch the screen. Shift your eyes away from your computer, phone or tablet.
  5. Stay hydrated. Water is your ally for staying healthy and alert.

30 minutes or less
  • Power nap for 10 to 20 minutes. Studies suggest this is the optimal length to increase alertness without the groggy side effects of longer sleep sessions.
  • Have yourself a personal impromptu dance session or healthy smoothie break in your apartment.
  • Take a brisk walk outside for 20 to 30 minutes. Your body will feel renewed with the fresh air and movement.
  • Create and enjoy a good snack. Carrots and hummus, celery and peanut butter, almonds or yogurt are a nutritious and easy choice. Discover more in this article.
  • Walk to the Nebraska Union or Nebraska East Union to pick up a coffee or hot chocolate from Starbucks.
1 hour
  • Do a yoga class and group fitness activities at the campus rec centers. View group fitness schedule.
  • Treat yourself at convenient campus spot. Order monster cookies, brownies, and ice cream cookie sandwiches from Sandoz Sweetz with the Transact Mobile Dining App. Enjoy a favorite ice cream flavor in cone, float, or sundae at the Dairy Store on East Campus. Make a date with friends and roommates at the Dessert Bar in Cather Dining Center.
  • Browse the art exhibits in the Sheldon Museum of Art or wander the sculpture garden surrounding the building.
  • Bake a batch of brownies with this quick & simple recipe.
2 hours (or more)

A break of two or more hours is easier to accommodate when you have multiple days between exams.

  • Attend a film screening at the Ross Media Arts Center.
  • Go rock climbing at the Outdoor Adventures Center.
  • Enjoy a round of bowling at the Husker Bowling Center in the Nebraska East Union.
  • Stream a film on the RHA Movie Channel if you live in the residence halls.
  • Sleep for 8 or more hours. Deep restful sleep improves your mood and your productivity.
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