You Deserve a Break: Here's Why

Maybe it’s just me, but online school has completely changed the way I take breaks from homework and studying.  I always thought that taking classes online would be easier than driving all the way to campus and switching between classes, but I was partially wrong.  While there are definitely some benefits to online school, like being in a comfortable home environment and staying safe from Covid, it requires more effort than it seems.  I think that it is easier than ever to procrastinate or get distracted by your bed because you’re tired on a Zoom call.  But, when you get those random bursts of motivation and productivity it can be so difficult to stop, breathe, and take a break.

Recently, I have been feeling guilty for taking time away from my laptop to do something fun or relaxing.  Although I am usually not so hard on myself for stepping away from my work, I’m not entirely surprised at my guilt.  As someone with perfectionist tendencies, I began this semester with a seemingly productive mindset–but it soon turned very negative.  I thought that since I would have less distractions from commuting or going out, I could completely dedicate myself to my studies and achieve highly.  This sounds great in theory, but what I failed to consider was how quickly I could burn myself out by overworking.  Or, when I wasn’t working, I would be consumed with thoughts about all of my readings, and assignments, and papers that it felt like I couldn’t breathe.  I often told myself that this could be a good thing–I mean, shouldn’t I be working hard in college?  Isn’t school always stressful?  It seemed acceptable to overcomplicate my stress because I wanted to be perfect, but this was only making life stray further from that.  My anxiety was simply sabotaging my semester.

If you relate at all to that, here is a reminder that it is totally okay to take a break and care for yourself.  I didn’t realize how deep in I was until my family and friends would occasionally ask why they had not seen me in a while, and that it seemed like I was always consumed by work.  I would agree with them, and then I started to realize the problem at hand.  Of course these are strange and unfamiliar times, but no matter what is going on in the world you should always let yourself breathe.  You don’t need any justification to relax, and if you are struggling with this and feel like you do, then I’m here to give you permission.  The notion of “perfection” that I tend to chase after is unrealistic, and working hard doesn’t have to mean going overboard.  I think that online learning (although it is necessary) makes it harder to divide your time between school and the rest of your personal life.  For some people, online classes may be a wonderful option to allow more time for family or a job outside of school–and I’m glad if that’s how you feel and find it valuable!  If you’re anything like me, you may feel unmotivated by online classes, as we are mostly cut off from daily campus life and seeing friends.  Since there isn’t much else going on in the middle of a pandemic, it’s understandable that many of us spend too much time with school.  When your bedroom becomes a classroom for part of the day, it can be hard to feel relaxed once you close your laptop. Letterboard - Photo by Emma Matthews Digital Content Production from Unsplash

So, what’s the best way to avoid online school burnout, or to solve it before it happens?  There may not be one way that works for everyone, but here are some of my own tips.  Since I have a habit of leaving my laptop open with my homework, and then taking a very short break and immediately coming back, I think it’s best to give yourself a specific time to stop working.  The Pomodoro method might work for you, or you could just think of a time when you want to stop studying and then actually stop.  Close your laptop and do something other than taking a quick trip to the kitchen and returning to your desk (I personally find myself doing that a lot).  In general, time management can make such a difference, and although I fall into deep procrastination sometimes, changing your study schedule could alleviate stress.  Take time to talk to your friends and family to avoid isolating yourself all day.  I find that having something to look forward to really brightens up my week, no matter how small it is.  It is so refreshing to make plans to see friends at a fun, socially distanced hangout, for example.  Or, just make plans with yourself, even if that sounds silly!  Go outside and enjoy the fall breeze, ride your bike, take a walk around your neighborhood–whatever calms you down.  It takes so much more effort during this time to experience excitement and diversion from the tiring cycle of school and work, but that doesn’t mean that this effort isn’t worth it.

Max Oetelaar

Realistically, we are still going to be at home for much of the day, so I think it is also important to create a positive and comfortable environment to study in.  I work at my desk in my room, but I still try for a change of scenery sometimes and switch to a different room in my house.  Choose a place that has minimal distractions, but that is also calm and organized (if that is a source of motivation for you).  One of my main stress relievers is listening to music, whether it’s a favorite artist of mine or a relaxing lofi mix.  Some other small things that help me a lot are lighting candles (this candle is my favorite one during fall) and having soft light in my room to chill out.  I love using string lights, or this mini USB Himalayan salt lamp that I keep on my desk.  Having a sort of ambiance lessens my stress, which allows me to be more thankful for online classes overall.  Even though this has been a hard adjustment, at least I can make the most of being at home and take the opportunity to learn how to deal with stress at my own pace.  That’s the key, your own pace.  Don’t let yourself or others make you feel like you should constantly be burnt out and overwhelmed by school.  Although it inevitably happens sometimes, try to make little adjustments to feel happier, and breathe!  We will get through all of this together (maybe not in person, but you know what I mean).