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Why You Need to Prioritize Breaks as an Online Learner

This blog is for anyone who is particpating in virtual learning this academic year. This back to school season likely feels different than past years. There may be some aspects about virtual school that feel like a relief, and other aspects that feel more stressful.

I invite you to pause and consider the following: What parts of online learning feel good/easy/flexible? What parts of online learning feel tense/difficult/uncomfortable? How are you feeling, overall, about school?

Whatever comes up is real. Furthermore, whatever you are feeling is valid.

Missing Transitions

When you are living and going to school in the same space, all day, every day, you don’t have as many transitions as you did with in-person school. Transitions are shifts in time, place, space, location, role, or task. For example, you don’t have a bus/bike/car ride or walk to school. You don’t have a passing period during which you may see other friends, stop by the bathroom, and physically move to another space.

Without transitions, our energy can sometimes get stagnant. If we endure a difficult or boring class and don’t have the opportunity to move our bodies or shake that energy off, we might feel a bit stuck. Even if we are having a carefree day, starting at a screen all day or feeling confined to our work area can be draining.

Thus, it is important to take breaks and create transitions!

Find a Break Schedule that Works for You

Each school has different versions of online learning. Some have designated breaks, while others leave the schedule up to the students. Regardless of how your school day is structured, you need to take breaks. We all do!

Breaks can increase your productivity, support your mental well-being, and help you integrate new learning. We can only take in so much new information at one time. Additionally, our bodies often take on a lot of tension while we sit at a computer, so allowing for movement and changes in position can be helpful. Not only for bodily comfort but also to increase oxygen to the brain, keeping us awake and alert.

Ideas for Breaks During the School Day

This is a community-generated list of ideas for giving yourself breaks during your school day. The ideas listed here were gathered during conversations with clients and from my peers and friends. Most of these break ideas are screen-free, as it is important to give yourself visual rest if you are on the computer all day.

As you read through the ideas, notice which ones you are already doing. Can you give yourself credit for the ways you are already tending to breaks? Notice which ideas feel most accessible to you, appealing to you, and/or rejuvenating to you. You might also notice which ideas feel surprising… these might be ones to bookmark and try at random to see what you think!

  • Stretch
  • Drink fizzy water or make a cup/mug of tea
  • Sit or move outside and invite yourself a mindfulness focus such as focusing on shades of green, finding something for each color of the rainbow, or listening for sounds near and far.
  • Pace around during sessions that are easier/more flexible
  • Go for a phone-free walk or roll
  • Cook or prepare a snack
  • Groom/pamper yourself, change your look, or play with makeup or accessories
  • Self-pleasure
  • 1-minute planks or handstands
  • Daydream
  • Read a poem or a few pages of a book
  • Water your plants (but only if they need it-lol! Care not to overwater), dust their leaves, or just admire them
  • Take a nap
  • Do a guided meditation
  • Call a friend
  • Jump on a mini-trampoline
  • Create a playlist of fave songs and take dance breaks
  • Look out a window and just observe OR check out someone else’s window via WindowSwap (sound on)!
  • Write a letter to a friend or family member
  • Play an instrument or make music
  • Practice a TikTo dance challenge
  • For longer breaks and/or weekends, check out the ideas in this blog!

You’ve Got This!

I know that we are all holding a lot right now, and this might include some grief around this back to school season. Again, everything you are feeling is valid.

When you make space for rest and play, you are tending to your capacity to learn, as well as your capacity for relationships, hobbies, and other interests. Finally, as you navigate these interesting times, you may enjoy documenting your support system with this guide + map. You’ve got this!

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