Slowing Down and Taking Breaks

I used to chide myself for wasting time where there is so much to do and see, so much happening around me. I’d berate myself for sitting around all day doing nothing, watching a movie, reading a book, sleeping in. However, as I enter the busiest point of the semester, i.e. finals, I’ve realized it’s okay to have a lazy day. It’s necessary, even. It is not so much a lazy day as a recharging day. We all need downtime. We need time to relax, rest, and breathe freely. In such an overwhelming time, it is easy to get lost in my own thoughts and stress and forget to breathe.


I make more of an effort now to slow down and make time for myself. The term self-care gets thrown around a lot nowadays, but it is so essential. So as finals begin to take over our lives and sanity, I encourage you to slow down, breathe, and take note of your current mental state. Take care of yourself and know that it is okay to take a break. There are actually studies showing that taking breaks makes you so much more productive than pushing through an assignment for hours on end. There are endless ways to take breaks, both mindless and more productive. Either way, our mind and bodies need it. In the rest of this article, I’ve highlighted a few ways I like to slow down and relax.


Photo courtesy of Katya Austin


I try to maintain human connections even during my busiest times. It’s actually become a goal of mine during my final year of college--to foster my relationships more. I often forget how much of a positive impact people have on me. I don’t realize that I become human-deprived until I get together with someone and feel rejuvenated. Make time for friends and family. Vent and stress to them, but also use their company as a break, as a way to step away from work and school and simply live in the moment.


I am making more time to read. It is so much harder to find time to read for pleasure in college, but I’ve made it a goal to read every day, whether that’s reading two pages while I wait for a lecture to start or waiting at a bus stop. I read to enrich my mind and imagination, to delve into worlds other than my own, and to release myself from the confines of the physical world. Reading gives me joy, so I never think of it as a waste of time.


Walks are another good way to take a break, de-stress, or kill time. They are great at fostering new ideas and random thoughts. If you’re walking with someone, I find that I have great conversations while walking. I love to take in my surroundings and see the shadows and light and passersby. I like to pay attention to the mundane details in my environment and marvel at their beauty.


Photo courtesy of Johannes Plenio


I journal. I write my thoughts, poems, and ideas. I doodle and sketch. The act of moving pen over paper, of directly translating what’s in my head to a page, flowing from brain to pen to paper, is so therapeutic to me. When I speak, words tend to tumble over each other and get stuck like food between my teeth, but writing helps me organize my thoughts and get across more emotion and meaning.


I lie on the floor or bed or sit in a comfy chair and listen to music. I close my eyes and just listen, letting the sounds wash over me like a warm breeze. Music is crazy to me because my tastes change depending on my mood and state of mind. Sometimes I can’t bear to hear my favorite song, and sometimes I have to listen to that one song that I normally skip over, that makes me wonder why I keep it on my playlist to begin with. Music helps me express to myself my thoughts and feelings, even when I’m not sure what they are to begin with.


I also love listening to podcasts. These are also great while doing activities that don’t require a lot of thought, like cooking dinner or cleaning.


Photo courtesy of Bruce Mars


I exercise. Sometimes, after sitting studying or doing research or whatever, I just need to move. Go on a run, do a core circuit, have a mini dance party in my room, do yoga. Bend and unbend my limbs. Stretch. Remind my muscles that they are meant for more than remaining in one place while I cram my mind with knowledge that I may or may not use later in life.


I bargain-hunt. I’m not really the kind of person who buys a bunch of clothes. I buy books, mostly. Sometimes, though, I happen across a jean jacket or pair of wedges or corduroy pants and it is my mission to search all discount sites and stores to find the cheapest, best-condition version. I love sales and thrift stores. I think I can thank my mom for my love of bargains. It’s almost like a game--finding the best deals. I recommend Poshmark and eBay. Also Nordstrom Rack.


Naps are always nice.


So are baths (to relax, not get clean).


I clean. Whether I’m procrastinating, bored, or just extra motivated, I always feel super productive and really satisfied after straightening up or deep cleaning my space. I love for things to have and be in their place. I make my bed, put clothes and shoes away, clear away the surfaces of my bedside table, dresser, and desk. I do my laundry, dust, throw away unnecessary papers. Living in a clean space makes me happy, and a nice break to focus on a specific task.


I meditate. There are YouTube videos, apps, and classes that focus on all levels of mindfulness and meditation. It is such an incredible and rewarding practice and something I am definitely trying to get more into. It’s a nice reminder to slow down every once in a while and that it is okay for our thoughts to wander.


Photo courtesy of Jared Rice


Whatever it may be for you, I encourage everyone to find their ideal break. What recharges you? What makes you joyful? Whether it’s to procrastinate or embark on a genuine break, find your happy place.