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How to Take Breaks When You’re Working from Home: Six ways to spend time away from your computer screen

Even before online learning, teenagers spent arguably too much time on their screens. A 2019 CNN article claimed that American teens spent more than seven hours a day on screens for entertainment purposes, which means that number doesn’t even include time spent on laptops doing schoolwork. Now more than ever, students are spending their entire days on laptops and phones, staring at screens as they take classes, do research, and write essays.

It can be difficult to have any sense of structure to your day when you’re spending it sitting in the same place, not moving for hours at a time. However, it’s really important to take breaks throughout your day; personally, what works best for me is to work for an hour, and then take a half-hour break. But everyone is different, and has various levels of how long they can focus on something. Play around with what time management schedule works the best for you, and in the meantime, here are six different ideas for what you can do with your break time.

Take a Walk

If the weather isn’t too bad, getting some fresh air and movement can be good for your physical and mental health. Pop in some headphones if you like music, or invite a friend along for a chat. Walking has been proven to be very good for you, and even just getting a 30-minute walk in each day is much better than nothing. It can be nice to get a change of scenery, especially if you live in a dorm or a small flat.

Stretch

Unfortunately, the weather isn’t always good for walking. Whether it’s too cold or raining, or you just don’t feel like changing out of your sweatpants (we’ve all been there), if a walk doesn’t seem like it’s in the cards for the day, try stretching instead! Find a short YouTube video if you want a guided session, like this ten-minute one for focus and productivity, or this longer one for concentration and mental focus.


woman stretching in bed
Photo by Bruce Mars from Unsplash

Call a Loved One

That’s right, I said call, not facetime. As much as it can be nice to see your loved one’s faces, calling your friends and family instead can give your eyes a break from looking at a screen. Try to keep facetimes to weekends or days when you’re doing less online work, and call your best friend or your mom on your break to relieve some stress. Especially if you’re feeling frustrated or overwhelmed, venting to someone who cares about you can take some weight off your shoulders, leaving you revitalized and ready to get back to work.

Make a Snack

In the words of the infamous Snickers commercials, you’re not you when you’re hungry. Use your breaks to make yourself a snack, or a cup of tea, and you might just find that you have more energy and focus to complete your tasks. Snacks like blueberries and nuts are what have been referred to as ‘brain foods’, but a good cuppa never hurts either.


Popped Popcorn
Kirby Barth / Spoon

Take a Nap

Now, please take this one with a grain of salt. Personally, I can’t nap — I won’t get up, and I’ll end up staying asleep way too long. But, if you’re one of those lucky people who can actually nap effectively, this can be a great way to restore some of your power when you hit that mid-day slump! The Sleep Foundation says that napping for 10-20 minutes is the ideal length, as this is the time window in which you can access recovery benefits without feeling groggy or sleepy afterwards.

Find a Hobby

Hobbies are good for the soul! While watching Netflix or reading can be great, both of these things can feel like less of a break if you’re already looking at screens or reading for school. Instead, try something like learning how to play an instrument, knitting, coloring/painting, or any kind of artistic release. Even things like meditating or cleaning can be a good way to give yourself a break while also forming a really productive habit and minimizing your stress. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how you spend your breaks, as long as you take them. Life is too short to spend all day working!

Emily Childress

St Andrews '22

Emily Childress is a third year at St Andrews and is from Haymarket, VA, USA. She is also an English major in the Joint Degree Programme with the College of William & Mary. In her free time, she enjoys travelling, telling any dog she sees how cute they are, trying out different coffee shops, and looking contemplatively out over the North Sea as she pretends to be in a Brontë novel.
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