Two people, with their backs turned, sitting on a foggy beach.

Scheduled Stress Breaks: Do They Work?

A few weeks ago I came across the idea that scheduled stress breaks can actually help deal with the feeling of being overwhelmed by stress. I wasn’t sure if a stress break would work but I thought I might as well try it out! 

First of all, what is a stress break?

A stress break is a fifteen minute time period in your day when you allow yourself to feel stressed--permitting yourself to think through every little thing that has been worrying you. For instance, in those fifteen minutes I let myself worry about 1) the assignment I’ve barely started but is due tomorrow, 2) how I feel pressed for time on the group project, 3) the fact that I have numerous emails that require a reply, and even things further into the future such as 4) where will I be next year (after graduating)?

A stress break doesn’t sound so fun if it’s fifteen minutes straight of feeling anxious but this break is meant to prevent you from stressing about these things outside of that time period.

Two people, with their backs turned, sitting on a foggy beach.

The second part of a stress break is this trick: because you know you now have a designated time to feel stress, you try your best to not worry throughout the rest of the day. When you do find yourself stressing, the goal is to train yourself to not let those worries overwhelm yourself in that moment. 

This is meant to be applied to worries that really don’t need to be confronted immediately. Example: I seriously don’t need to be worrying about where I will be living next year while I write my essay, so I remind myself that I can worry about it later. This is also relevant for bedtime--I try to avoid running through everything that stresses me in the upcoming days. 

I have found that most of the time my lack of motivation stems from the fact that I am stressed about an assignment or worried that I won’t get a good grade. Then these thoughts end up preventing me from actually getting the work done.

At the very least, I think stress breaks are useful for dealing with stress that stems from issues that we don’t have any control over (example: now that I have submitted my grad school applications and am waiting to hear back, I try to tell myself not to stress over if I will be accepted when I have no control over it at this point). 

I don’t think stress breaks are for everyone, and I don’t find them useful all the time, but I think there is something valuable in learning how to tell yourself that now is not the time to stress

The stress break method is easier said than done, but I think it is certainly an interesting approach to coping with stress.

Me, sitting in the garden as the sun rises.

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