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It’s only been six weeks since the Christmas holidays but I need a break. I find myself yearning for a few lie ins, yearning for time to myself, visions of beaches flitting across my mind and daydreaming of running away and leaving my day-to-day behind.

Luckily for me next week is reading week, breaking up the term into two and giving me a week to catch up on corrections and de-stress for a few days. However I may only be swapping work-stress for leisure -stress as I will be off to Germany for a few days on Friday.

But even though I will be exchanging running from class to class to running from relative to relative and entertaining students to entertaining my one-and-a-half-year old nephew, I am removing myself from my daily routine, distracting myself from my work-life stress.

And while I still will be  daydreaming about a sunny isle and a cocktail with and umbrella in it, I am giving my mind a much needed break from dealing with my every-day stress. Funnily enough this is not only important for our well-being but for how we cope with stress.

Research has shown that our brain functions better when we allow it to relax after work. This is down to something called hormesis, a term used to describe the correlation inducing stress and then allowing an adequate time to relax. In sport this means you workout, put stress on your muscles followed by a period of rest, allowing your muscle to grow and strengthen.

The same thing applies to our brains. Studies have shown that neurons, those tiny building blocks that make up our nervous system, become more resistant if we apply the same idea. Periods of stress followed by periods of rest allow them to strengthen and help them ward of diseases like epilepsy, migraines and even dementia. Interestingly the thing that puts stress on neurons is something we do anyway, to more or less success, THINKING.

But to encourage the hardiness we need we also need to take breaks. Of course the most desired way of doing so is to pack a bag and fly away but since we don’t have enough possibilities to do so we are often left with more  affordable mini-break options. Sleep is one of them, since when we wander off into dreamland our brain can relax and recharge, but even reading a book, watching a film or investing time in our chosen hobby gives  the brain enough distraction from stress and strengths our nervous system. We just need to remember to keep taking those all important breaks.
So with Friday only two sleeps away I will just hold on to my tea-breaks for now and hope that my week long break will be enough to gear me up for the rest of the semester. With the words of the Roman poet Ovid

Take rest; a field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.

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