Study Breaks & Stress-Busters

Keep calm and take a study break

Take purposeful, energizing breaks to
study smarter. 


Cornellians are not afraid to roll up their sleeves to work and study hard. But did you know that taking study breaks can actually help you study smarter

You might be wondering – how can spending less time studying help me get everything done? 

Research shows that taking purposeful breaks (anywhere from 5–60 minutes) from studying to refresh your brain and body increases your energy, productivity, and ability to focus.  

Keep in mind: social media doesn’t work well as a “purposeful break” (see the research). Instead, find activities that give your mind a break and allow you to breathe deeply, laugh, move your body, be creative, or “zone out” on purpose. These kinds of activities will help you re-energize and re-focus.

Ideas for purposeful, energizing study breaks:

  • Reconnect with nature (visit Cornell’s NatureRX website for ideas)
  • Meditate (listen to an online guided meditation, or attend a 20-minute Let’s Meditate session by Zoom)
  • Take a walk 
  • Take a 15- to 20-minute power nap 
  • Take a shower 
  • Practice deep breathing (see instructions above)
  • Allow yourself to daydream  
  • Tidy up / organize your workspace
  • Listen to music
  • Stretch – chances are your body is tense from sitting in the same position for hours on end, so take some time to stretch your neck, your back, your arms, and wrist. 
  • Phone a friend 
  • Cook a healthy meal or have a healthy snack
  • Laugh! 
  • Express yourself through creativity – draw, doodle, color, etc. 
  • Dance party!  

5-minute stress busters:

  • Deep breathing: Take slow, deep breaths through your nose – filling up your whole chest – and exhale slowly through your mouth. Try to make your exhale longer than your inhale.
  • Progressive muscle relaxation: Starting with your toes and working your way up to your head, slowly tighten ... hold ... and then relax your muscle groups (feet, legs, buttocks, abdomen, shoulders, arms, hands, face). This type of body scan exercise is also great for helping you fall asleep.
  • Mini-meditation: Even 2-5 minutes of meditation can calm your mind and help you feel more focused and relaxed. 
  • Visualization: Mentally rehearse a task you want to master. Imagine yourself acing the task (taking an exam, having an important conversation). Now, focus on how your success feels (excited, relieved, satisfied, smart). Re-visit this feeling often.
  • Change of scenery: Get up and take a short walk. 
  • Let it out: Laugh with a friend. Do 20 jumping jacks. Put on your favorite song and sing or dance.

More ideas:

  • Check out Insight Timer, a free app for sleep, anxiety, and stress.
  • Visit Press Pause (developed by MTV and the Jed Foundation) for short videos, words of advice from other college students, and tools to help reduce anxiety, worry, and the feeling of being overwhelmed.