Intentional study breaks promote productivity, combat harmful conditions


From garnering mental fatigue to vision problems, studying can be an intensive process. Intentionally taking intermittent breaks during your sessions can help you be more efficient with the time you spend, while counteracting the effects of sitting and staring at screens.

No doubt you’ve heard about individuals developing vision problems or headaches in conjunction with looking at computer, phone and tablet screens for extended periods of time. Between our social media usage, video viewing, texting habits and all but necessary use of computers in order to work, people spend a lot of time staring at screens and the artificial light they emit. Doctors now identify an issue that derives from this incessant usage – Computer Vision Syndrome. Yes, it’s a real thing and it can produce some particularly unfavorable side-effects that could potentially hamper your productivity.

According to the American Optometric Association, CVS encompasses a group of eye and vision-related problems deriving from prolonged computer use. Symptoms can include eyestrain, headaches, blurred vision and dry eyes. A variety of factors contribute to these effects, namely poor lighting (in the setting you’re working in, as well as improper screen brightness settings), glare from screens and uncorrected vision problems. The association also states that individuals who spend two or more consecutive hours in front of a screen are at greatest risk for developing CVS and related problems.

Dr. Burt Dubow, senior partner at Insight Eye Care, has had patients ask for solutions for problems associated with studying and prolonged, screen-using activities, such as tired eyes and sensitivity.

“(I) recommend taking frequent breaks (every 15-30 minutes) where you look at something real far away, like out a window, to relax your focusing muscles,” Dubow said in an online Q&A.; You should also make sure the lighting is correct for the activity you are doing — bright for reading and a bit dimmer for computer work, with no glare.”

So how can students prevent some of these problems while optimizing end of semester studying? One option is to take intentional study breaks. This means scheduling time away from the computer, textbook or work station in order to relieve some strain on your mind and body, using the opportunity to be productive in another fashion.

“I keep Facebook up and check it every 10 minutes,” Kathryn Douglass, senior in biological systems engineering, said. “I also play Candy Crush and watch Netflix. We have dual monitors in the engineering department, so I just have one for fun and one for work. It takes me longer to get through it (work), but it keeps me sane.”

Dance date

Take a few moments to shake out the stiffness and soreness, especially in the neck and shoulders. Almost any form of physical activity can relieve stress and improve the mood, according to Mayo Clinic. Even if it isn’t dancing, find some way to get active. Go for a short walk, clean part of the house or pump out some pushups.

Snack sessions

At some point, you’re going to need to eat. Though one strategy is to have your snack with you where you’re studying, you’ll better embody the goal to get active if you get up to get food. This can mean a walk to the vending machines; a stroll to the kitchen to prepare something; or a jaunt for some fast food in town. Point blank, the change in scenery will refresh your mind and the movement will get your blood circulating again. Plus, food.

Nap time

Short naps (20- 30 minutes) are recommended by the National Sleep Foundation to “restore alertness, enhance performance and reduce mistakes and accidents.” According to the foundation, short naps provide these benefits without a residual feeling of grogginess or an interruption of your regular nighttime sleep. So find a quiet place to put your head down, relax and rejuvenate.

Laugh away your losses

There will be plenty of instances in which you realize you’ve not accomplished nearly as much as you’d planned. Whether this is due to lack of focus or materials taking longer than anticipated to review or complete, we all fall short somewhere, at some point. Laugh it off. This doesn’t mean excusing wasted time or dismissing the consequences – you simply let go of what you can no longer change.

Take five minutes to enjoy an entertaining video, appreciate the camaraderie of your friends also suffering through studying, via Snapchat or read some jokes. The work will still be there when you get back, but this short segment can help elevate your mood through released endorphins, ease your mental state, stimulate circulation and promote relaxation of the muscles. All of these aid relief of certain physical symptoms of stress and will ultimately contribute to better work when you resume, just be sure not to get carried away. It should go without saying that binge watching stand-up comedy for three consecutive hours likely won’t help you on your finals.