Starting the semester has felt like getting hit by a bullet train. It is easy to be consumed by the mountain load of work that doesn’t seem to stop piling. Several times this past month, I have felt like I was stuck between two huge rocks with no escape.
In these moments, I have found that putting a pause on the daily grind is the best thing for my motivation and my mental health.
Taking care of our mental health is just as important, if not more, as getting our degrees. It is easy to lose sight of our dreams and goals and get sucked into the daily grind when the pressure hits; even worse, it is easy to lose sight of who we are and what makes us happy.
There is a very easy solution to this problem — plan to take time off. Plan some time chunks into your schedule to “do nothing.” Because when you plan to take the time off, you are obligated to do so.
Several factors can make this hard to accomplish. When the flow of assignments and tasks to complete is forever piling up, taking some time off is the last thing on anyone’s mind. For me, it can be hard to justify taking a break when I am stuck on an assignment, especially when I have a jarring list of things that I have planned to do for that day.
Top that with the constant need to feel productive, and it can be almost impossible to feel content while taking a break. Remembering the clarity of mind that a break brings, however, can mitigate these factors.
First and foremost, scheduling five or ten minutes every day to tune out from the daily grind creates an obligation. Making a schedule and sticking to it always helps, and adding this into yours can make it a recurring event you take seriously, even on days when you don’t feel as stressed or pressured.
Secondly, this time can be used to pause and think about the path you are on. Our hectic daily schedules leave little room for introspection, and this gives you the time to do just that. Taking some time to just be alone with your thoughts is just as important as regularly working out or reviewing lecture notes. It helps you redefine your purpose and motivate your daily grind.
This semester has brought trials and tribulations to us all, and it can be even harder to find the time to take a break. Staring at a screen for hours on end, however, only hurts your well-being. Several studies show that even taking a five minute break while doing a task can help substantially increase focus and heighten creativity. And, more importantly, it can help keep your mental health in check.
“Doing nothing” will most likely take on different meanings for different people. There is no one-size-fits-all mechanism that works here: any activity that helps relieve stress and allows you to take a break will work, and this will depend on the person. Whatever it may be, health professionals have suggested that you move away from your place of work and minimize your screen time during your break as much as possible.
It is important to heed what happens in the world — but prioritize your mental health above it all. Without cultivating a strong state of mind, you won’t be able to cultivate all the other aspects of your being.
So the next time you plan out your day, don’t forget to put in time to simply do nothing.
Alaina Joby is a first-year from Los Angeles, CA. She can be found doing nothing at firstname.lastname@example.org.