“There is virtue in work and there is virtue in rest. Use both and overlook neither.” — Alan Cohen, American businessman
It is a widely accepted fact that cracking the UPSC civil services warrants intense preparation for 10-12 months involving gruelling hours of study and single-minded dedication. Many IAS aspirants make the mistake of studying continuously for days sparing very little time for eating and sleeping. Needless to say, this kind of effort hardly yields positive results. You would be punishing your body by upsetting its natural rhythm in this process. You also lose your health, energy and enthusiasm for anything let alone studying. You run the risk of burnout. Burnout is also clinically akin to depression. And if you do make it out till you take the UPSC exam, you wonder at the unexpected result thinking, ‘I worked so hard and why didn’t I succeed?’
It is well documented by research that human beings need to take occasional breaks from whatever it is that they are doing in order to sustain their concentration and enthusiasm levels. It is simply not practical to study for hours at a stretch. Read on to know the importance of study breaks and also the do’s and don’ts of a study break.
Why should you take breaks?
- Research suggests that our brain stops registering a stimulus if it remains constant over time. The body gets habituated to it and the stimulus does not register meaningfully. After a point, it is erased from our awareness. This implies that continuous study hinders understanding and internalising of the material.
- Prolonged focus on the same activity causes burnout and leaves you exhausted.
- Taking breaks improves your concentration and memorisation skills.
- It makes you alert and productive.
- It also ups your motivation levels.
When should you take a break?
- Ideally, you should take a ten-minute break if you’ve been studying for 50-60 minutes. Depending on your capacity, it can go up to 90 minutes but not more than that.
- You’ve been sitting for a while and you think your mind is not able to concentrate effectively.
- You feel you are getting easily distracted than earlier.
- You’ve finished a tough topic and want to switch to another topic or subject.
There are some unofficial rules of taking breaks after you’ve been studying for a while. Let us see what they are:
What to do in a study break?
- Take a break after 50-60 minutes for ten minutes.
- Get up and move around. Have a change of scene. This will refresh your mind.
- You can do some minor exercise during this break like a short walk or some stretching. Exercise helps you rejuvenate and improves concentration.
- Have a light healthy snack. Only your breakfast/lunch/dinner breaks can extend beyond the stipulated ten minutes.
- Splash water on your face. This will get rid of any drowsiness.
- Be a stickler for the time schedule. It is tempting to say, ‘Five more minutes of break time won’t make much of a difference’, but it does. It can easily extend to 30 minutes and remember, this time wasted doesn’t comeback. Also, you’ll lose your study rhythm.
- Chat socially with a positive person.
What to avoid during a study break?
- Don’t stretch your breaks for more than the stipulated time. Studying for 45 minutes and then taking half-hour breaks will totally break your flow and ruin your day’s preparation.
- Avoid watching TV and playing video games during the study break. These are brain-stimulating activities and prevent you from relaxing properly.
- Don’t let your study break to be an excuse for procrastination. If you check your messages on your phone or email, make sure you know when to stop. If you are serious about your UPSC civil services aspirations, get back to your studies at the scheduled time. Don’t extend these breaks into a time for unlimited social media surfing.
- Avoid junk food during your breaks. They can satiate your craving but will cause havoc with your system. Stay healthy.
So, remember to take short breaks in between your studying to prevent your brain from getting fatigued. Once you take a little break, you can get back to your IAS preparation with renewed vigour. Your studying will become more effective and productive this way. Breaks are meant to refuel your body and mind with energy and enthusiasm. Also, be cautious while taking breaks. Keep in mind all the points discussed above. Adhere to the do’s and don’ts and convert your study breaks into effective rejuvenation blocks that will help you achieve your civil services dreams.