BREAK-ing news: you need 5 minute rests to recharge for effective study

You might think you’ve got too much to write, read or revise to take a break, but you’ve never been more wrong, and we’re ready to help…By Karina Beck.

Break for an activity

Bake a cake, ride a bike, draw a picture of yourself in a spaceship.

  • Research proves that switching tasks will keep you focused. Psychologists call it “deactivating and reactivating your goals” and specifically mention revision as one of the tasks you need to impose breaks on [i].
  • Achieving a small task away from the bigger one at hand is key for motivation. Learning and achieving can do wonders for your mental wellbeing in any situation and this is particularly true when you have a seemingly insurmountable task ahead of you. Taking the time to do short activity (exercise, crafts, cooking, completing a level) can give you a sense of completion and satisfaction which allows you to return to your work in a better frame of mind. That “well at least I’ve done something today” feeling often translates into “I’m on a roll”.

Break for a laugh

Tell a joke, watch a cat video, hold hands and skip to costcutters.

  • Even thinking you’re going to laugh reduces stress levels. Research shows that even when we anticipate that we’re going to laugh the levels of adrenaline and cortisol – often named the ‘stress hormone’ -drop in our bodies [ii]. So you can have a good laugh and return to your revision more calm and focussed.

Break for nothing!

Rest, rest, rest.

  • Scientists have found your brain might not be resting, even when you are. You might feel guilty taking a break, but scientists have found the ‘default mode’ your brain reverts to in rest periods is linked with ability in reading comprehension and possibly critical thinking [iii].

Keep an eye on the Study Blog…

In the midst of your exam and dissertation woes, we’ll be endeavouring to make your breaks successful. We might post a silly something to get you tittering, a set of instructions for a 5 minute task or provide a little well-being advice to make your rest restful. Check in each week to recharge your revision, share your stress-busting experiences, and it’ll all be over before you know it.


[i] Ariga, A. & Lleras, A. (2011) Brief and rare mental “breaks” keep you focused: Deactivation and reactivation of task goals preempt vigilance decrements. Cognition, 118 (3): 439-443.

[ii] American Physiological Society. “Anticipating A Laugh Reduces Our Stress Hormones, Study Shows.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 10 April 2008. <>

[iii] Immordino-Yang, M. H., Christodoulou, J. A. & Singh, V. (2012) Rest Is Not Idleness: Implications of the Brain’s Default Mode for Human Development and Education. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 7 (4): 352-364. 

Image: Time Flies…/Robin Maben/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Try some origami to start you off! 


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