young girl of asian descent takes a brain break by sliding down slide on playground smiling

Why Brain Breaks are Even More Important at the End of the School Year

Did you know that taking short outdoor brain breaks during the school day can help you learn better? When the school year is almost over and the sun starts shining more, it's easy to dream about summer vacation. So, let's talk about what brain breaks are and why they matter so much at the end of the year.

Brain breaks are a short time when you stop doing schoolwork and do something different, like taking a walk, playing a quick game, or just sitting quietly and thinking about something else. Brain breaks are especially helpful towards the end of the school year when everyone's excited about the nice weather, ready for summer break, or stressed about final exams.

According to research, our brains can't focus for prolonged periods of time. This is especially true the younger a student is. After about 20 minutes of focusing, our brains start to get tired and we can't learn as well (Scientific American). When we're close to the end of the school year, this can be an even bigger problem. But brain breaks can help our brains get ready to focus again.

The nice weather can help with brain breaks, too! Research shows that spending time outside in nature can make you feel happier and think better (Harvard Health Publishing). So, outdoor brain breaks like a short walk or game can give your mind some rest and help it work better at the same time. You can even incorporate curriculum in fun ways.

Here are a few more great examples for both younger and older students (and some for both!):

Elementary Brain Breaks

  • Extra recess!
  • Tag games
  • Nature scavenger hunt
  • Jump rope challenges
  • Sidewalk chalk art
  • Yoga
  • Outdoor story time/quiet reading

Middle School/High School Brain Breaks

  • Walking meditation
  • Frisbee/ball games
  • Gardening
  • Outdoor sketching/journaling
  • Bird/plant identification
  • Yoga
  • Mindfulness exercises

Remember, the goal of brain breaks is to give students a mental rest and help them refocus, so choose activities that are enjoyable and stress-free! 

Brain breaks are also great for helping us deal with stress. At the end of the year, we might feel nervous about exams or sad about saying goodbye to friends for the summer. Group games during brain breaks can help us feel closer to our friends, and quiet thinking time can help us feel calmer (Edutopia). 

As we finish up the school year and the weather turns warmer, remember how important brain breaks are. They can help us learn better, feel less stressed, and even enjoy school more, even when summer vacation is just around the corner. So, let's make the most of brain breaks. Remember, it isn't just relaxing—it's actually helping us learn! 


The Body Holds the Truth

After 17 years of facilitating grief and trauma recovery, I recently experienced something that led me to a completely new understanding of the importance of the work we do at TLC and the programs we have developed and refined. As well as being a trauma counselor, I am also the author of the TLC/STARR Adults in Trauma program. Along the way, I have become aware of my own grief and trauma experiences. Addressing them has been instrumental in my work as a witness to others’ experiences in a therapeutic setting. Little did I know that trauma was residing just below the surface of my awareness.

In December of 2017, I found myself in a particular pose at a yoga class that unexpectedly threw me back into the memories of a trauma about which I had only been vaguely aware. Suddenly, the power of hidden trauma became very real to me. You may be familiar with The Body Keeps the Score by Dr. Bessell van der Kolk. Well, my body had kept the score. The yoga pose released a visual image and the emotions associated, immediately and dramatically.  Given her training and experience, the owner of this yoga studio was able to understand what was happening, reframe the experience in a manner I could understand, and helped return me to a relative sense of safety and control.

The best I can determine is the event that was triggered, and allowed to release, happened when I was about 7 years old. Since then, I have managed to gather a rather eclectic, unconventional team to help me address and move on from this childhood experience with which I am still in the process. At 68 years old with this experience finally revealed, I am energized to continue the flow of information regarding therapeutic practices that are available to adults who have experienced traumatic events in their childhood.

While children are the focus at TLC/STARR, there are many children of trauma who have grown up to become adults in trauma, not realizing that the traumatic events they experienced may still be present and active within their body. They are handling life well, mostly, until one day something triggers a strange and scary physical and/or emotional reaction seemingly out of context with current events. If they come to us seeking help, how do we assist them?

  • Do we help understand and assure that basic needs have been met, if necessary?
  • Do we endeavor to teach what trauma is, the effects, reactions, while normalizing it all?
  • Do we seek to offer the possibility of some action to be taken by the person, regardless of how small, that can lead to a sense of safety and control?
  • Do we focus on the many possibilities that could be at play and that may not fit neatly into a DSM V diagnosis?
  • Can we share assessment results in a manner that bolsters safety and empowers?

While we may start with a few inquiries, our priority is creating a human connection through our gaze, our voice, our words, maybe our proximity, discovering that our humanness, our caring, and our witness is enough, initially.

When I first wrote Adults in Trauma, I had no clear notion of the true reason behind the writing – that my own experience was guiding me – or the potential effect on future generations. Through the research conducted by Dr. Rachal Yehuda in epigenetics, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, Dr. Peter Levine, our colleague Dr. Caelan Soma, and many others, I began to understand differently that unaddressed traumatic childhood experiences can have a profound effect on future generations, not only behaviorally and emotionally, but in ways that the field of epigenetics is beginning to reveal. Our focus at TLC/STARR is to educate, support, teach, and assist children and adults in understanding and moving beyond the impact of traumatic events experienced and into a place of thriving. The hope in our work lies not only in mitigating the potential long-term effects of trauma, but also for future generations in ways we may have not imagined before.