It is truly unique to have the opportunity to study a new language so intensive as I am currently doing. Starting from scratch and dedicating every day to draw new characters, learn pinyin and practice tones. It is super interesting and it is super demanding. I honestly think that learning Chinese must be one of the most brain stimulating activities possible!!
Some days after intense classes followed by a private class followed by homework I reach this limit where my brain just stops working properly. I read the same sentence over and over again without fully understanding it, I draw the same stroke wrong over and over again. This is where I enter the frustration mode and everything suddenly seems ten times more difficult.
My brain needs a break.
My problem is that I don't always think I have time to take the break.. because I need to this and this then that and that aaaaaand theeen if Im super productive I can even get ahead of today's studies. This is where I want to become a more rational thinker. Because just like any other organ in your body your brain needs b-r-e-a-k-s. In the end these breaks are most likely to make you more efficient, more productive, more creative and maybe most important of all: make you feel way better with whatever you are doing.
Jeff Stibel who is a renowned author (his NYT bestseller "Breakpoint" is on my list of wanna-read-when-I-get-the-time-books) have these five excellent ways of giving your brain a break during a work or study day. I like them all (not sure if it's Jeff's intention that you take five breaks as I like to do some days....):
1. Take a moment to do something you love. Take advantage of what’s at or near your study or work area. Being fully engaged in an activity lifts the mood and contributes to feelings of overall well-being
2. Get in touch with nature. Being outside activates different brain regions than sitting inside, as most of us do for the majority of our workday. Simple ways to incorporate nature include taking a walk in a nearby park or regularly having lunch outside
3. Be physically active. Company-sponsored yoga classes and in-office gyms are becoming increasingly common, with good reason. Exercise is good for our brains. If you can’t get in a full workout, don’t fret: stretching for five minutes or even using a standing desk makes small changes that can spur creativity and recharge your batteries
4. Nap. I’ll admit that this is the hardest to do in a typical office environment, but if you can find a way, the benefits are huge. Some offices actually have sleeping pods, but for those that don’t, slip out into your car for a power nap. Much of what happens in the brain while we sleep is still unknown, but what is certain is that people perform better in terms of memory and concentration after a nap
5. Do nothing. If a snooze isn’t possible, then simply sit in a quiet place and allow yourself to relax for ten minutes. Just as when sleeping, important mental processes occur when we daydream
Brain breaks can make a big difference in your ability to be productive, creative, and innovative. The paradox is that doing less often allows you to do more.
The interesting thing about Jeff's list is that here in China number 4 is an absolute winner. If you live here you know what I'm talking about and if you will ever visit you will see it. Everywhere. In offices you will se the office worker nap on the desk, in shops you will see the shop assistant nap on the till, in Starbucks you will see god-knows-who-and-how-many nap in the most comfortable chair available, in the Chinese supermarket you will see the workers nap on sacks of rice in the corner. It is absolutely outrageous where you see people take their naps here. They must be so tired.
Weird as it can seem to see people napping around everywhere it is apparently such a good habit if you want to increase your productivity as well as your well-being. Me being a power-nap-addict I am happy to see that I have veeeery good reasons to continue power-napping. I prefer to do it at home though but if not possible I may try to challenge myself and take a nap at Starbucks next time my brain needs a study break.
Be good to yourself and start giving your brain a break or five