Taking Breaks (That Aren’t an Hour Long)

Now that we’re almost done with the semester, there’s a glazed look in every McDaniel student’s eyes. It can only mean one thing: we’re burned out. We’ve all had four tests too many, not enough paper extensions, and way too many Starbucks Doubleshots. But you know what? There’s still another paper, another test, another cup of coffee. And in a few weeks, we’re going to have finals. Whenever someone mentions finals, there’re a few phrases you’ll hear:

“I’m going to drop out.”

“C’s get degrees.”

“Grandma said college was a waste of money.”

from Flickr Commons

from Flickr Commons

Now, before you drop out, resign yourself to an average grade, or start believing Grandma, who still thinks you look best with your shirt buttoned up to your neck, take a break. That’s right. I said take a break.

The best thing to do when you’re feeling burned out after a 3-hour study session or a 4-hour paper-writing binge is to take a break. Not a 5 hour Orange is the New Black break. A 30-minute maximum break. That’s the limit I’m going to give you. From personal experience, after those 30 minutes are over, you have a better chance of catching a foul hit at an O’s game than getting straight back into your paper-writing mode.

from baltimore.orioles.mlb.com

from baltimore.orioles.mlb.com

Accept it, you’re not as lucky as the Oriole Bird. Instead, follow these suggestions for 30-minute breaks to take during your finals week:

1. Clean your study space.

You might laugh, but it’s a good way to still feel productive. Part of why it’s so hard to get back to work after a break is that you’ve lost your desire to continue being productive. That break to read the next chapter of your fifth reread of The Goblet of Fire will quickly dissolve into a nap until dinner. And boom! You’ve lost 4 hours of work. So grab the Clorox wipes, vacuum, or dust rag and clean around your laptop or desk before sitting back down and getting the rest of your study guide typed.

2. Watch a TED talk.

Instead of YouTube, where you can get lost watching every Jenna Marbles video she’s uploaded over the past two years, go ahead and check out TED.com. These videos are between 5 and 20 minutes and the library offers a selection of educational lectures on just about anything you can think of. They’re entertaining but will keep you thinking, just so it’s easier for you to get back to work.



3. Fix yourself a good study break snack.

Make it something tasty. Don’t bother with bird food or rabbit food, but don’t just grab a bag of Doritos. Try an apple with caramel or crackers and peanut butter. Make it a reward for working so hard. Make sure you eat it away from your laptop; you don’t want to associate things you do during break time with where you do work.

from kraftbrands.com

from kraftbrands.com

4. Go on a walk.

Stretch your legs. Make it a lap around the school, but not much more. Getting too far, literally and figuratively, from your work will only make it that much harder to get back to it.

5. Play 8 rounds of Mario-cart.

If absolutely none of these options are going to happen for you, play a video game. Not Assassin’s Creed: Unity. Something you can time and actually stick to the time you set up. Something like Mario Cart. According to Writing Center polls, it takes about 8 games of Mario Cart to fill a 30-minute slot.

Rather than catching up on your Hulu queue that you’ve been neglecting for two weeks, try one of the above options. Do your best to avoid the Internet; you’re going to want to cry when you realize you spent 3 hours of your study time watching Cat Man Do videos on YouTube. You really will. I’m not speaking out of personal experience. Really.

Best of luck on finals!

–Cari, peer tutor

Staying… Focused

Is your homework life full of diversions? Having trouble with that paper not because you don’t know what to write but because you can’t concentrate? Here are five simple strategies that, once implemented, may make a world of difference.

Wipe out any distractions
There are several apps and websites  designed to block websites for a dedicated amount of time. Some are Mac specific while others are ensured to work in most browsers, no matter the operating system. Regardless of the application you choose, social media, games and other online interferences will be inaccessible.

Be sure to clear both desktops. While these apps may block any digital distractions, you’ll want to make sure your physical space is clear as well. It can be as simple as pushing all of the stuff on your desk into a drawer. If you’re not in the mood to clean (which can also help you focus: fun fact), there are plenty of spots on campus where you can plop down and get to work.

Stay hydrated
In general, water helps with everything.  Dehydration can lead to lost focus, exhaustion, dry mouths and super yellow pee. You don’t want any of that do you? Water and other non-sugar filled drinks are important in keeping you healthy and in making sure your brain, and body, stays as functional as possible. Not only that, drinking water can strengthen your immune system so you aren’t sick while you work.

As you can see, there’s little to no reason to not drink water. And while you’re at it, eat something. Your body, like your paper, needs nourishment. It’s hard to focus on a prompt if your stomach is growling every 2 minutes.

Image Source: http://knowyourmeme.com/photos/653964-spongebob-squarepants

Image Source: http://knowyourmeme.com/photos/653964-spongebob-squarepants

Use Music
Many people use music when they’re exercising their bodies, why not use it while you’re working your mind as well? Music can also help block out surrounding noise, like screaming neighbors or the heart warming melodies of Flute Man from the gazebo (which, while beautiful, are also liable to lure you to sleep).  Be sure to choose your music correctly. Classical music is often said to motivate people the most during studying but maybe it’s heavy metal, or slow R&B, or country that really gets your energized. Whatever you’re listening to, make sure it’s something that helps you focus.

Invest in the Reward System.
The Reward System is a simple way to boost your morale and you can customize it for whatever you’re doing. For every hour of work, give yourself 15 minutes of the Kim Kardashian game (does anyone still play that?). Or a gummy bear for every page read. The Reward System should be used sparingly, you don’t want to go overboard and end up indulging when you should be working. But, when used in moderation, it can still be used to self-motivate.


Image Source: http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/35uyf7


Get up. Get up and go away.
Sometimes the best thing you can do to complete your paper is to stop working on it. Breaks can not only help prevent your head from spontaneously combusting but also allow you to look at your paper differently once you return to it.

Melanie, peer tutor