The first year of veterinary school is fun, exhilarating, and, sometimes, exhausting. With the excitement of class and lab throughout the day and then coming home to study at night, we vet students occasionally forget how to step away from the books and slightly relax.
Now that the semester is half way over, I have learned that those tiny moments away from the books are essential to everyday life. At first, school seemed to take a big chunk of my time, or so I thought, and I could not possibly imagine fitting in any “brain breaks.”
Well, that did not last too long. I found my focus had started to decrease once I got home from school, and so I had to learn how to incorporate a small break here and there.
First, I decided to continue my summer exercise routine of 40 minutes a day of some kind of exercise I enjoyed. Personally, I enjoy running and yoga. Although some days I may not have all of that time, even 20 or 30 minutes of exercise is enough to get me up and away from the books. During those 30 minutes, I get my blood pumping, clear my mind, and take a step away from the bright luminesce screen. On days when studying is long and vigorous, after two hours I take a break and do a workout video from YouTube, and that short, and free 20, minutes of exercise is just enough to get me up out of my chair and reset my brain.
There are days when exercise is just not appealing, so other little stress relievers are useful. Coloring while listening to music, doing a load of laundry, baking a cake, taking 10 minutes for meditation, or even vacuuming up the apartment are all ways I step away from school. An even better brain break, and one I enjoy very much, as most veterinarian students do, is to play or cuddle with my cat, which releases that small amount of stress I was focusing on while studying.
Over the last nine weeks, the most important thing I have learned is to take those small breaks. I know it can be difficult at times, but those breaks help improve studying! Research has shown that our brains are not meant to look at something or stay stationary for long periods of time, so having short mental breaks, ranging from 20-30 minutes, can actually improve information retention.
So, no matter what you’re doing, remember to occasionally take a step away, enjoy the fresh air, and let the mind reset.