Mindfulness and self-care: Taking breaks the right way

Tuesday, November 7, 2017
by Aman Kaur Virk

Bruce Banner saying
In the whirlwind of exams, assignments, labs, and applying to jobs and graduate programs, life can get a little hectic during school. When there’s so much on your plate, it seems counterintuitive to take regular breaks and give yourself time to breathe and relax. However if you overwork yourself and don’t schedule in time to take a breather, this can negatively impact not only your physical and mental health but also your academic performance. Here are some self-care tips that will help you relieve stress while also improving your success in school.

  1. Do daily physical activity. Even if this means taking a longer route to your next class and walking briskly, daily physical exercise is great for physical and mental wellbeing. Take the stairs instead of the elevator when you get the chance, or do 10 jump squats every time you complete a question while studying. Fit in little bursts of exercise to stay active even in the busiest times of the semester. Bonus: This is also a great way to stimulate your mind and stay awake during those sleep-deprived, coffee-induced all-nighters! Check out these deskercises you can fit into your study routine.
  2. Practice yoga or meditation. The semester seems to fly by with so many assignments and deadlines, but it’s important to pause and breathe once in a while. Join a meditation or yoga club on campus and drop by whenever you get the chance to learn new techniques that you can practice on your own time. You can also find resources online that teach basic breathing techniques and methods to control your thoughts that can help clear your mind. This can come in handy when your mind turns into a tornado of anxiety and stress during busy times of the semester. Get started now!
  3. Do something you really enjoy at least once a week. Just like cheat meals during a diet, cheat days during school can actually enhance your academic performance. As always, moderation is key! You can do this daily with smaller things like watching an episode of your favourite show, taking time to cook for yourself, or treating yourself to dessert. Try to take a longer break at least once a week to go out with your friends, go for a hike, read for fun, or watch a movie. This can prevent you from burning out and losing productivity and efficiency over time. It also gives you something to look forward to throughout the week, making your labs and lectures more bearable.

One of the hardest things to do when taking a break from schoolwork is disconnecting your mind from all the stresses of life. If you’re out with your friends or spending time with your pet but your mind is still on the piles of readings waiting for you afterwards, then these breaks are much less effective.

Learning how to be present in the moment and becoming self-aware of your state of mind takes patience and practice. Practicing mindfulness and consciously clearing your mind of stresses and negative thoughts while taking a break can improve your academic performance when you come back to your work.

Attend the workshops on yoga, meditation, and time management at UWaterloo’s annual Long Night Against Procrastination (LNAP) to start implementing some of these tips! The event is taking place in the SLC this Thursday night (November 9th) from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. Our furry little friends at MATES will also be joining us, giving you the chance to relieve some stress and make some new animal friends. Register for a night of puppies, prizes, pizza, and more!