By Ellie Brown, Second Year Sociology and Politics
It happens to us all. After the stress of January exams, it’s hard not to take your foot off the gas and relax a bit in term time. But all too soon the work not done, lectures missed and seminars half-listened to start to snowball.
By Easter, the avalanche hits. You panic, cramming in 12-hour study days and doing insane amounts of research for essays and exams. The ‘holiday’ period becomes an intensive study session, with all thoughts of relaxation out of the window.
Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be this way. Contrary to popular belief, doing well in essays and exams and having fun aren’t mutually exclusive, though this is sometimes difficult to remember as it goes against the stereotype of being a good student. In fact, revising too much can actually be counterproductive; staring at books and screens all day is not good for your mood or your ability to concentrate and learn new information. As Cottrell points out in The Study Skills Handbook, being a ‘virtuous’ student is not equivalent to being an effective one.
And effective students take breaks. Not the partying kind, or the distracted browsing of internet pages that it’s so easy to waste an hour or so on nowadays. These are okay for the evening or weekend, but unlikely to be helpful when you’re trying to work. What I’m talking about are breaks which refresh the mind, lift mood and leave you ready and able to have a useful study session.
How long should these be? Most experts (including Bristol University) recommend 10-minute-breaks following a 20-minute-study period. This is perhaps a good guide but, as with anything, you have to find what works for you. The same goes for how you spend these breaks. I’ve suggested some activities which aren’t likely to be helpful, and made a short list of some which I think are. These activities are fun and flexible, so can be fit into any revision plan or done spontaneously.
1. Get creative
The sheer joy of making something new, brought to life by the skill of your mind and body, is hard to replicate. More active than passive forms of entertainment, getting creative is great partly because of this sense of achievement, although it’s easy to fall into the trap of criticising what you’ve made, especially if you’re a perfectionist. Don’t! It’s about the process, not the product. You could write a poem, paint a picture or work on a larger project like a short film. You could even bring creativity to your studies, for instance making a model or poster of something you’re learning about. If creating alone isn’t your thing, groups such as Student Body in Mind run relaxed workshops in the Living Room which are free to join.
2. Move around
Although the weather has been lovely recently, it’s likely you’ll be studying inside and sitting down. This isn’t great for the mind or body, so it’s good to get up and go outside if you can. You don’t have to do much. Walking to the shops for ten minutes is enough to get your muscles working and heart rate up. Plus, the fresh air and lack of distractions can be a relief. If you’d rather stay inside, doing chores, cooking dinner and baking all count as they involve moving around. It doesn’t matter how small the exercise is, as long as you do some!
3. Interact with others
The last and most important one. Studying is almost always an activity done alone, unless you regularly meet up with other people as part of a revision groups. Even then, you’ll probably do quite a bit of work in silence, like reading and making notes, and discussions will be focused on work, depending on how disciplined your group is. There won’t be much opportunity to feel close to others. Yet this is vital for our wellbeing. So, use revision breaks to check in with loved ones, such as friends, family or pets if you have them. Have a laugh and keep the essays and exams in perspective. Work will seem much easier then.
Featured image: Epigram / Josie
What are you doing in your revision breaks? Let us know!