Do you find life overwhelming at times?
If so, it’s not a sign of inadequacy; it’s your body’s way of letting you know it’s time to step back, chill out, and carve out a little time for yourself.
Feeling overrun is perfectly normal.
And when it happens, it may be time for a mental health break.
Needing a mental break doesn’t mean you’re somehow deficient or “crazy.” Instead, knowing and respecting your limits demonstrates an admirable level of sanity and self-awareness.
- What Does It Mean to Take a Mental Health Break?
- 7 Signs That You Need a Mental Health Break
- How Long Should a Mental Health Break Be?
- How to Take a Mental Break for Your Health
What Does It Mean to Take a Mental Health Break?
A mental health break doesn’t necessitate a six-month sabbatical or extravagant vacation. If your life allows for such extravagance, by all means, take advantage of your good fortune.
But not everyone has the means or ability to jet off for weeks on end.
For the rest of us — (i.e., the majority of us) — mental health breaks could be as small as taking 15 minutes to drink tea or coffee while checking out a celebrity gossip website.
Structurally and practically speaking, a mental health break is something that:
- Helps you relax
- Allows you to escape from life’s stresses for a bit
- You enjoy doing
- Fits into your budget
7 Signs That You Need a Mental Health Break
Thankfully, increasing numbers of people and employers understand the importance of mental health and its impact on physical well-being and productivity.
But how well can you tell when you need a little time to yourself to rejuvenate?
1. You’re Exhausted
The most common burnout symptom is exhaustion of both the body and mind.
Caring for loved ones while toiling eight to twelve hours daily on work that requires concentration or physical labor is no easy feat. And yet, it’s what most people’s lives look and feel like in these days of hyper-consumerism and lightspeed-connection.
Even though advanced technology makes everything easier, we’re more tired and stressed than ever!
If you find yourself in a cantankerous rut and your gas tank is empty, it’s probably time to take a break.
Bonus Tip: When human bodies reach the point of exhaustion, they may release a squirt of adrenaline, a stimulant. So make sure not to confuse an emergency bodily function for feeling rejuvenated.
2. Constantly Edgy
You hear a rustle and jump out of your skin. Someone knocks on the door, and your heart starts pounding. You always feel like someone is watching and panicky about everything.
Fear tightens its squeeze a bit more each day, and your amygdala slams into overdrive while struggling to mitigate your off-the-charts stress responses.
Sound familiar? Well, guess what? You need some me-time.
Bonus Tip: Constantly being on edge is murder for the mind. If you’re besieged by anxiety and worry, take a deep breath and think about how many times you’ve gotten yourself worked up, and nothing happened. In most cases, it’s a very high number. Rarely do the things we worry about come true.
3. Short on Motivation
There was a time when you liked what you did. You may not have been psyched to go to work every day, but it wasn’t torture. You had enough in your tank to live a balanced life.
These days, though, your motivation is in the red, and you’re feeling increasingly hopeless. At times, you may even feel resentful toward your friends and family.
If this description fits your situation, you guessed it: you need to step away and recalibrate.
Bonus Tip: Motivation deterioration can also be symptomatic of an inefficient routine. Research and try different productivity methods. Finding one that fits may change your life for the better.
4. Start Eating Unhealthy
You’ve never won any health nut awards, but you make an effort. But when burnout sets in, your diet may be one of the first things to fly out the window.
Rundown people don’t have the patience to prepare nutritious food. Calling in for takeout is much easier when you’re on the verge. Besides, we crave comfort food when we’re feeling blue.
If you’ve reached a point where Postmates, GrubHub, DoorDash, and UberEats are your most-used apps, and you haven’t been food shopping in weeks, your body is telling you to step back and pay attention.
Bonus Tip: If terrible food is one of your great loves, allow yourself a weekly cheat day. You deserve it, and it’s an excellent way to build a reward loop into your life, which boosts mental health.
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5. Everything Sets You Off
Are you easily triggered lately? Do you hyper-interpret the simplest of questions — in the least favorable light? Are you a fountain of adverse emotional reactions?
When your self-regulation meter is shot, and you’re reading into every last gesture, you can bet your bottom dollar you need to ease up and take care of yourself.
Bonus Tip: Yoga and meditation are superb ways to becalm stress and tension.
6. Pulling Away
Sectioning off a bit of daily “alone time” is healthy. We all need to regroup and recollect ourselves away from the prying eyes of other people.
But if you find you’ve turned into a hibernating bear and effectively shut down all signals of a social life, it’s time to take a break to figure out where you’re at. Drastic lifestyle changes may suggest you need help getting back on track.
Bonus Tip: Everyone’s level of social interest varies. Some folks enjoy a more solitary existence. If that’s you, try not to internalize generalizations about how much you should be “going out.” If you’re happy with your social life, that’s super.
7. Your Work Is Suffering
The third-most concerning burnout sign — behind physical and mental deterioration — is a decrease in work output. Our decision-making abilities and mental clarity may suffer when we aren’t thriving. We also become terrible at prioritizing.
If that sounds like your situation, take a deep breath and tell your boss you need some mental health time.
Bonus Tip: Taking a mental health break from work for even a single day can be all it takes to regain your groove. Just make sure you really take the day away from work. Rejuvenation days don’t work if you constantly check your phone for updates and emails.
How Long Should a Mental Health Break Be?
To recap: A mental health break aims to help you maintain your well-being. So the cure depends on the ailment.
If you’re only having a minor hiccup, an afternoon of unplugging and doing something fun will likely do the trick. An extended sojourn may fit the bill if your entire world blows up.
Mental health professionals advise giving yourself at least one mental health day a month. Whether it happens during the week or weekend depends on how many vacation days you’ve wracked up.
If you have a good amount, scheduling one three-day weekend for yourself each month can do wonders for your well-being.
If you can’t take time off, find at least 15 to 20 minutes a day for yourself.
Conversely, certain signals indicate that seeking help from a professional therapist or life coach may be best. Because sometimes, clearing hurdles takes more than a quick mental health break.
Enlist a therapist if:
- You’re fighting a strong desire to fully escape your life and start over (if you have responsibilities to a family or partner).
- You find it difficult to get up every morning, even after a short vacation.
- Your mind feels cloudy, and you haven’t made any lifestyle changes warranting the sensation.
- Your ability to handle simple “executive functions” (meeting deadlines, paying bills on time, et cetera) is nonexistent or rapidly diminishing.
- You’re experiencing suicidal ideation.
How to Take a Mental Break for Your Health
Anything that helps you feel relaxed, refreshed, and enthused may qualify as a mental health break. Possibilities include:
- Taking the trip of a lifetime
- Sneaking away for a weekend camping trip
- Having a long girl’s lunch
- Spending an hour drawing or painting
- Blocking off a few hours to binge-watch guilty pleasure shows
- Sitting for a yoga or meditation session
- Spending time outside
- Unplugging from social media and other digital tethers
- Taking a long bubble bath
Try not to associate mental health breaks with vice consumption. It can lead to more significant problems.
Please don’t read us wrong; there’s nothing wrong with enjoying a glass of wine or two a couple of times a week. But if you’re up to a nightly bottle, your alcohol intake may fuel your stress and discord, not curb it.
Mental health is equally as important as physical health. Studies definitively prove they’re intertwined.
So don’t diminish yourself by ignoring your mental health. You deserve the best, and that means sometimes prioritizing yourself.
So go ahead and take that break!