How taking “Bright Breaks” helped me

Owais tries a new online platform that promotes self-care and health.



YouAlberta is written by students for students.

Owais (he/him) is a third-year mechanical engineering major in the Faculty of Engineering, born and raised in the Sultanate of Oman (close to Dubai). With a taste for adventure, his future plans include exploring South America and Antarctica, but for now, you can find Owais enjoying a good Tom Clancy book while sipping on his favourite Tim’s coffee. His favourite place on campus is on the eighth floor of DICE to soak in the panoramic views of downtown and the river valley, along with enjoying the lively atmosphere of hanging out with fellow engineering students.

As a student at the U of A, my days are often filled with lectures, assignments and labs. Like many other students, I have experienced firsthand the pressure to stay up to date with a large number of deadlines while trying to maintain some sort of balance in my life. It's a constant balancing act, and all too often, self-care gets pushed to the bottom of the priority list, especially during midterm season.

I came across a site called Bright Breaks almost by accident when I saw an advertisement while surfing the internet (looking up Netflix recommendations.) Curious, I searched the site and realized that as students at the U of A, we have free access to this site through Campus & Community Recreation. I registered myself and started looking at the site for its exact purpose.

The first thing that drew me to Bright Breaks was its emphasis on taking breaks in fun and meaningful ways. The first activity I tried was called a 'Stress Buster.' This activity was about 10 minutes long and helped me get in the right mind space to complete yet another lab report. As someone who tends to get lost in my studies for hours on end without moving an inch, I realized the importance of stepping away from my books and giving my mind a chance to recharge. I also got the option of setting up automatic breaks whereby I get alerts on my Google Calendar with the link to get up from my desk and just take a break.

In my opinion, Bright Breaks is not just another website offering generic advice on well-being; it is a platform designed specifically for students like me who are looking for practical ways to enhance their mental, physical and emotional health. From the moment I started using it, I knew it was exactly what I needed to navigate the challenges of university life more effectively.

But Bright Breaks goes beyond just offering ways to unwind; it also focuses on improving posture and physical health – two things that get neglected in the race to complete assignments. As someone who spends countless hours sitting at my desk, I've experienced firsthand the toll it can take on my body. There is a wealth of resources available on Bright Breaks to help reduce the negative effects of prolonged sitting. From desk stretches to yoga tutorials to ergonomic tips, I found easy solutions to improve my posture and reduce the strain on my body. It was a game-changer for me and made studying for long hours much more comfortable and sustainable.

The most impactful aspect of Bright Breaks for me has been its focus on nutrition and meal prep. Like many students, I often struggle to maintain a healthy diet while juggling a busy schedule and limited cooking skills (somehow burning plain rice.) Too often, I have found myself reaching for convenience foods that are quick and easy but need more nutritional value. For students like me, the guidance available on Bright Breaks on how to meal prep is invaluable. The informative sessions on meal planning, grocery shopping tips and easy-to-follow recipes opened my eyes to the value of eating the right food rather than the first snack available on hand. Armed with this newfound knowledge, I began approaching cooking and meal prep with renewed enthusiasm and confidence. Not only did I feel better physically, but I also noticed a positive impact on my mood and energy levels.

There are so many reasons why taking regular breaks is beneficial, ranging from increasing concentration by allowing our minds to recharge and increasing our attention span. As a result, it helps prevent burnout by changing our routine and improving physical activity instead of sitting on a chair all day.

There is also the social aspect to using a service like Bright Breaks. It allows you to take these classes with friends and other members of the U of A community. There is a scoreboard, helping you keep a sense of friendly competition and encouraging you to participate more. Bright Breaks is also hosting a competition along with Campus & Community Recreation known as the 'The UAlberta Habit Refresh Challenge' that is happening between February 26  and March 8, aimed at encouraging U of A students to take more frequent breaks.  

For me, Bright Breaks has been a lifeline and a source of support as I navigate the ups and downs of midterm season. It has helped me find balance in chaos, prioritize my well-being and cultivate habits that will serve me well long after graduation. It has also helped change my perspective; I no longer see self-care as a luxury but as an essential part of my academic journey. It's a lesson I'll carry with me for the rest of my life.