More and more studies are coming out with concrete evidence that stress can have permanently damaging effects on a person's psyche. With our increAse access to overloads of information, unhealthy life habits, and "never stop going" mindsets, it can be hard to take a step back and really relax.
We often suffer from feeling cerebral congestion, an unwanted sensation that develops throughout the day. To-do lists lengthen. Chores pile up. The idea of a nap crosses your mind more frequently as the day drags on. How do you cope?
Brain breaks offer a short period of relaxation for the brain, and an opportunity for it to recharge and recuperate in an effort to maximize productivity. There are many ways to take a brain break. Next time you are feeling stressed about life, try one of these and see how much better you feel after.
1. Take a bubble bath.
This is my go-to brain break when I need to escape everyone and everything. Something about a bubble bath is just so soothing. The warm water will relax your muscles and the steam from the water will help you breathe deeper and easier. I always use Kneipp's Balancing Mineral Bath Salts, a natural aroma-intensive bath treatment reccommended to combat mental fatigue. They smell like lavender and feel like heaven.
2. Go for a walk in nature--and leave your phone.
Everything is so still and peaceful in nature and sometimes the best way to find internal peace is to spend time in a peaceful place. Grab your sense of adventure, head out to find your perfect outdoor hang and leave your phone at home (or turned off in your bag). Set up a hammock or a picnic blanket and let your mind rest as you listen to the sound of the world, not your text tone. No matter where you live, you should carve out 30 minutes to one hour per week to spend completely invested in nature.
The mind is a powerful tool, and with some direction and focus it can take you farther than you think possible. Thanks to the internet there are a variety of guided meditations available on YouTube and various podcasts, each with a different focus. Starting off your morning by meditating gives you the opportunity to set intentions for your day and allows you to think more clearly and rationally as the day wears on.
4. Zone out to an episode of your favorite Netflix series.
For me, it's Parks and Recreation. For my roommate, it's Dexter. No matter your fix, spending 20-40 minutes halfway through your day focused on something other than school can be very beneficial. I like to pick a funny 20 minute show (my favorite series include New Girl, Don't Trust the B in Apartment 23 and Portlandia) and watch one episode between class. Instead of taking a nap try watching a few episodes of an uplifting show. You will feel rested afterwards, but won't feel drowsy.
5. Spend time cooking.
For those of you who can't sit still long enough to meditate or spend time in nature, try baking cookies or cooking a meal. You will be able to use your hands and will feel productive when the finished product comes out of the oven. Good smells can improve your general well-being and boost your mood, so if you are cooking something that smells as good as it tastes, you are likely to leave the kitchen in a more positive state of mind and with a satisfied tummy.
Exercise is responsible for releasing endorphins, which make you happier. By working out daily you can boost your immune system and self-confidence levels while improving your sleep cycle at the same time. Sleep is crucial for the rejuvenation of your brain and can help you process the new material you learn in class, making you more focused while awake. Working out is a good way to release pent-up tension and will leave you feeling relaxed and in control.
7. Cuddle with your pet.
Oxytocin is a hormone released in the brain during intimate acts such as hugging, cuddling, and sex. It enables you to feel loved and more trusting toward those around you and relieves tension. Oxytocin has positive effects on your emotional, cognitive and social behavior, and clears your mind so you can focus on other things! If you are single, don't worry. Oxytocin is released when you are hanging out with your pet as well. If you don't have a pet, organizations such as Austin Pets Alive will let you foster pets from four to six weeks.
8. Listen to your favorite album from start to finish.
Music can provide a safe haven in times of trouble and a celebration in times of joy. Chances are you have a few albums you listen to when you need comfort, and those albums can also help relax your mind when you can't escape from the busy environment around you. When you are focused on music you can let your mind wander and will walk away from your mini jam session feeling more energized and productive.
Taking a brain break is important for cognitive function and focus. If you start to feel the stress building up in your life, make sure you take time to participate in an activity that requires focus on something other than school. With a clear mind, you can accomplish everything with ease.