It’s a pretty safe bet that your life as a student is hectic: there’s always somewhere to be and something to do. This doesn’t just include your various projects and assignments – it also extends to sports or band practices, music lessons and all your social commitments.
To be fair, these commitments all have their place, and you probably enjoy most of them. This is great! There’s no reason you should be compromising on them – you're young with a truckload of energy. Plug a few gaps with a coffee here and there and you’re good to go… right?
Well, even though you might not feel like you need it, downtime is an essential part of keeping yourself in check. You need to de-stress, step back, and let your brain process everything going on. It's going to calm you down and help you recharge yourself for everything else that life throws at you.
So why not start by taking a minute out of your busy schedule to understand why downtime is important?
Okay, what is 'downtime'?
It's simple: downtime is your time. It’s time for you to relax. Time where you’re not pressured to be anywhere or do anything.
Why is downtime necessary?
School is a haven of busy-ness. Notes all over the place, worksheets being handed in or handed out, teachers coming and going, assignments that are due, new concepts being taught... it's all very fast-paced. You can’t keep up this pace forever: you need to take a step back, and take everything in.
Let’s look at a common example! Your lunchbreaks and intervals are a great source of downtime, and they exist because your school recognises that you can’t just work all day. Instead, you can take a while to eat while letting your mind wander, have a laugh with your mates, kick a ball around, or just find a quiet bench to read a book.
But here’s the thing: just because you’re chilling out doesn't mean your brain is too. During this time, it’s hard at work processing your latest memories or experiences and preparing you for your next class.
Thanks to that, it becomes easier for you to focus in class, your mood improves, you get more work done, and you feel more creative. As a result of all the above, you can do better in school. This is just one example of how downtime can benefit you.
What are the other benefits of downtime?
Having some time off in a day can improve all areas of your life – we’re talking emotionally, physically and socially. So, let's take a more general approach to this: how can downtime affect you as a person?
Well, during downtime, your brain gets a chance to reflect on recent events and process what they mean to you. By doing this, you subconsciously build your values, ethics, and your whole identity through those experiences.
If your brain isn't given a chance to do this, you’ll start to feel tired, irritated and confused a lot of the time. Things which might have ordinarily been easy to manage can start to really get on your nerves! On the contrary, though, if you respect your own boundaries and give yourself the processing time your mind needs, you’ll feel more organised and in control. Your mental health will also start to benefit from this.
Okay, so how do I do this ‘downtime’ thing?
There’s no one right way to do downtime! The important thing is to find something where you're not putting too much stress on the brain. One of our favourite downtime activities is to just put on some music. Find something you vibe with, lie down and let the mind run free; you'll be surprised what you might end up thinking about. This is where your imagination blossoms; since your mind isn't distracted by the stresses of everyday life, it's going to wander and occupy you with random imaginations.
If you're more of an artistic genius, you could get some blank canvas or paper and express yourself through drawing or writing. If you’ve got a bit of musical talent, take it out on your guitar (or any other instrument you play). This is known as active relaxation, because you’re doing something while you relax.
Or, you might be more of a fan of passive relaxation. This could look like going for a quiet walk or even just daydreaming! You might be interested to know that daydreaming relates to our ability to recall information while being distracted. It taps into the same processes our brain uses for imagination and creativity.
Don’t look down on passive relaxation just because you feel like you’re not doing anything! Plenty of ideas and discoveries have come from this; just think of Isaac Newton sitting under that apple tree, doing nothing but letting his mind roam. Look at how that turned out.
How often and for how long?
Great questions! There are two main things you might like to keep in mind.
Firstly, it’s great to try and get at least a little bit of downtime every day, even if this is only for half an hour. This helps your mind to process the comings and goings of each day, and keeps you energised on a regular basis.
Secondly, try to schedule longer periods of downtime every once in a while. This might look like going to the beach or a long bike ride once every couple of weeks.
Ultimately, though, there are no hard and fast rules – everyone has a different schedule and different needs. Whatever works for you, don't skip it, and don't overdo it. Keep things in balance and watch your life improve!
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